Ramesh ShankarWednesday, March 7, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The AICTE's recent decision to bring Pharm D course under its regulatory control has once again triggered debate over the issue of dual regulation of pharmacy education. Currently, pharmacy education is controlled by both the Pharmacy Council of India as well as the AICTE. While PCI, the statutory authority under Pharmacy Act 1948, exercises control over pharmacy institutes for approval for registration, the statutory AICTE was established under AICTE Act 1987 with a mandate to exercise powers over the educational programs, including pharmacy, and to formulate regulation and maintenance of norms and standards. Even though the PCI has been running from pillar to post to end the dual regulation by amending the Pharmacy Act proposing that pharmacy education at all levels should be governed by PCI alone, a conclusive solution to the lingering issue remained elusive for several decades now. From the very beginning of pharmacy education in India till the year 2008, pharmacy education was available at three levels, Diploma in Pharmacy, Bachelor of Pharmacy and Master of Pharmacy. All the three were under the dual regulation of AICTE and PCI.  But, the Pharm D program which was introduced in 2008 did not fall under the AICTE’s regulation till recently. Pharm D program of six years as well as three years post baccalaureate program were under the regulations of PCI till the recent announcement of the AICTE.

Probably, pharmacy education is the only stream of education in the country which is being regulated by two totally different authorities. What is more interesting is the fact that there is no unanimity even among the academicians and experts on the issue of who should be the controlling authority on pharmacy education. There are two distinct schools of thought on the issue. One group of experts is of the view that the concept of dual control of PCI-AICTE should be done away with and the PCI should be empowered as the sole authority to control pharmacy education in the country, just on the lines of Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India and Nursing Council of India. They argue that dual control has caused confusion due to different stands taken by them.  Besides, much time and resources are spent on preparing and facing inspections by both the institutions. There is need for a stand-alone and able body like the PCI which comprehends the nuances of curriculum update in a fast transforming industrial environment. They point out that the pharmacy courses, especially Pharm D, are clinical in nature and no production or technology is involved in it to be brought under the control of AICTE. However, some experts are of the view that if the degree level courses are completely freed from AICTE control, these institutions will not get financial assistance from AICTE. Besides, stipends to students, grants for teachers for research activities and all other incentives will come to a halt. They argue that PCI cannot bring control of pharmacy colleges under its control because PCI’s primary role is to regulate the profession and practice of pharmacy only. All institutions are getting grants from AICTE and education regulation is vested with AICTE which has a separate board to control pharmacy education. Now, enough time has wasted on making arguments and counter-arguments, it is time the Union HRD Ministry takes a final call on the issue which has been lingering for over several decades. Whatever may be the merits and otherwise of these arguments and its acceptance, the heart of the discussions should be the interest of the pharmacy education in the country, to take it to international level.