Pharmacy Education: It’s Challenges

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 Jessy Shaji  

Jessy Shaji  

The Profession of Pharmacy has made significant progress in the last one decade. The present article introduces the current status of pharmaceutical education in India as well as in the overseas specially USA and Canada.

To confront the new challenges we suggests necessity to revamp the Pharma Education that is mainly related to regulatory bodies, Industry–Institute Interaction, different teaching technologies along with collaboration with foreign Pharmacy Institutes and Distance education. By overcoming these problems we involve in the commitment for upgrading the education through modernizing Pharmaceutical culture.

Introduction:  -

The Pharmacy education in our country has witnessed tremendous expansion in last one decade. However, the standard in education have been eroded by rising tides of mediocrity. There is an urgent need to initiate an academic exercise aimed at attaining revamping of curriculum, keeping in pace with current and emerging trends in the field of pharmacy, Unfortunately all these years, enough emphasis was not laid on strengthening the components of Community Pharmacy, Hospital and Clinical pharmacy, while designing curriculum at diploma and degree levels of teaching. Even, the curriculum of industrial pharmacy covered in B.Pharm at some universities is outdated. We have to strike balance between patient and industry oriented courses and bring out very effective and rewarding curriculum for our graduate course of pharmacy. The proposed AICTE syllabus for B.Pharm framed after in depth deliberations is a step in the right direction.

The qualities of pharmacy education imparted by our institution have everlasting impact on quality of health care offered to our society. Any delay on our part in meeting present and future requirements of pharmacy curriculum will be acutely felt by the coming generations of our students. We have to prepare them to meet challenges and professional requirements in Post-GATT era. We, therefore, cannot afford to linger over challenges and must grasp all opportunities today for healthier India tomorrow.

Keeping in view, current status of pharmacy education in developed and many developing countries, it is ripe time for us to initiate a national debate on introduction of graduation in pharmacy as the minimum qualification for registration as pharmacist.

The world of today is undergoing rapid social economic, political and technological advancement. In this regard, Pharmacy as a technical and professional field is undergoing globalization. In this scenario profession of pharmacy has been forced to undergo radical process of evolution with great shift in its public mission. Hence it becomes clear that pharmacy education also needs to react and undergo rapid change, renewing the terms of graduate professional in strengthening healthcare system in order to keep pace with emerging trends in pharmacy field.

Pharmacy education should satisfy the needs of today and tomorrow for continuous professional development.

Pharmaceutical Education, The Indian Scene:

As we are aware that the first degree course in pharmacy was instituted at BananasHindu University by late Prof. M.L.Schroff under the patronage and support of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. Prior to that there was no formal training for the so-called compounders who did numerous jobs under the doctors and incidentally filled prescriptions also for their patients. For nearly a decade the course at BHU remained the only degree levels formal education in pharmacy. Later the Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat universities introduced full-fledged degree courses in the late fourties. After the Pharmacy Act came into existence a rapid expansion took place in the field of pharmacy with mushroomed growth of pharmacy colleges. The status of growth of pharmacy profession relied upon pharmacy education; hence the curriculum should be revised constantly to keep pace with the emerging trends in pharmacy fields. But in our country the pharmacy education is unable to produce skilled pharmacists because of problems in the educational system making the pharmacists jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

Indian pharmacy education presently a has four tier system viz,

- Diploma in pharmacy  (2 years post HSC)

- Bachelor in pharmacy   (4 years post HSC)

- Master in pharmacy  (2 years post B.pharm)

- PhD in pharmacy  (minimum 2 years post M.pharm)  

In the developed countries pharmacy education is not just knowledge based, it is competency and skilled based. In the developing countries, there is growing concern to transform pharmaceutical education into around twenty competencies. Some of the competencies are pharmaceutical care providers, communication counselors, information providers etc. The competencies are not just knowledge based but also skill oriented.

It is time to change our diploma, under graduate and postgraduate education from knowledge base to competency base, in order to develop the necessary skills and competencies and not theoretical knowledge of pharmacist.

Pharmacy practice in India: The Past

The Chopra committee (1930) evaluated the alarming situation in drug use due to non-regulatory control and recommended evolving and regulating the practice of Pharmacy profession. As a result of this, The Drug and Cosmetic Act 1940 and the Pharmacy Act 1948 were enacted and D.Pharm became the minimum registerable qualification for the practice of pharmacy.

Pharmacy practice in India: The present

We have today 6 lacs pharmacists in the country, of which 5 lacs are in community pharmacy. Diploma holders largely handle the pharmacy profession and the providing of quality pharmaceutical care is still a dream. However, significant developments underway may change the situation-

-Increase in consumer awareness

-Awareness among the pharmacists on the need to provide direct patient care

-Entry of international players in community pharmacy and health insurance

-Increasing foreign direct investment in health industry

-Increase in awareness that quality pharmaceutical care can be delivered only by pharmacists trained in direct patient care. 

Pharmacy practice in India:  The Future

Pharmacy practice is poised for tremendous growth. The future is bright for pharmacy practice in our country as the need is well recognized and the stakeholders are keen to achieve quality pharmaceutical care in the country. This recognition has been well represented in the Mission and vision statements.

Pharma Vision 2020: The mission

To optimize health of all members of society through the promotion of safe, effective and rational medicine use, patient counseling and monitoring of disease management through pharmaceutical care

The vision 2020

In the year 2020, pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientist working within various discipline of pharmacy will be established and recognized as the medicine expert and an expert in health promotion and disease prevention.

The future Indian pharmacist will:

-Have pharmaceuticalexpertise and facilities to deliver high-tech and individually tailored care

-Actively involve in national health programmes

-Perform medication management and outcome monitoring.

Pharmacy Education- where are we now?

Varying degrees of educational development achieved in the countries of Asia:

-Japan, India, Malaysia and Singapore have increasing appreciation for the role of Pharmacists in healthcare

-Pharmacy Education in India has been reacting to change; however, it must strive to be agent of change.

-Interdependence and cross border cooperation are seen as a beneficial way to shape education for the future in India.

Pharmaceutical Education Overseas: -

Pharmacy education in most of the developing and developed countries like U.K, U.S.A, Australia and Western countries is going at rapid pace in order to cope with the advancements that are taking place in the emerging fields of pharmacy. A look at the qualifications of the pharmacists required to practice pharmacy in developed countries is in pharmacy in Europe, Pharm. D in U.S.A. as against D.pharm in underdeveloped countries like India.

The Pharmacy education in Pharmacy institutes and universities over there involves commitments in upgrading the education through modernization of facilities, well-trained senior staff, emphasizing the subjects like Hospital pharmacy, Clinical pharmacy, Biopharmaceutics, Toxicology, Pharmacy practice etc. Their education is mainly Patient oriented rather than Product oriented. They maintain industry-academic interaction and collaborations with industries. They have the opportunities for the computer aided Pharmaceutical education with facilities of software, digital library, microteaching and also provision for distance education and continuing Pharmacy education programs. The course work mainly includes tutorials, assignments, fieldwork projects etc. in order to consolidate student knowledge and skills.

Necessity To Revamp Pharmacy Education: -

To confront new challenges there is necessity to restructure the present situation of pharmacy education. A SWOT analysis of the scope of pharmacist in this millennium clearly indicates that the role of pharmacists has to be redefined.

Keeping all this in view the new health universities will have to prescribe the syllabus which will be able to meet the future challenges. Newer courses may be required to be offered in marketing and other areas by the pharmacy institutions that will create newer avenues for the employment of the pharmacists. It is also important for the educational institutes to realize the impact of the new syllabus on the prospective employment of the students coming out of the pharmacy institutions. They will always have to answer the questions posed by the doctors, “In what way is pharmacist’s knowledge superior /equal /complementary in medical sciences to that of the doctors?” What would help in “Better patient healthcare?” This is indeed different question and at present cannot be answered. The following conclusions can be drawn, Answer to questions, Can there be two separate nomenclatures one which is industrial pharmacy oriented and second which is medical science oriented.” With the signing of GATT agreement, the emphasis in our country will shift to phytochemical and herbal compositions. Hence the syllabus has to give greater weightage to phytochemistry and herbal formulations.

The acquisition and mergers will see more emphasis and shift towards marketing which suggest introduction of Pharm-administration (including patent laws), pharmacoeconomics and information technology and software development for pharmaceuticals.

With an aim to produce cost effective medicines and keeping in tune with progress in biotechnology there has to be greater reliance on the biotechnology-derived products. Teaching of subjects of cellular / molecular biology and biotechnology is need of the hour. The knowledge of this subject will also help in growing cell lines so vital to in-vitro testing of drugs.

With total specialization in the medical sciences for the pharmacists, subjects such as pharmacoepidemology and advanced biostatics will have to be introduced. Organized work in design of novel delivery systems and devise, which could be commercialized, will be the need of the hour. For full understanding of the same advanced knowledge of Engineering, Science, Polymers and sophisticated instruments knowledge is essential.

Greater emphasis has to be given to advanced pharmaceutical analysis to serve all these. The use of animals in experiments is being stoutly opposed by groups belonging to prevention of cruelty to animals. This revised syllabus has to take care of this fact and introduce substitute method. Revision of syllabus must consider and emphasize on building skill in the student without overburdening.

Hence following revamping points are necessary to face the global challenges:

1. Establish Pharmacy University to have better control on the pharmaceutical education.

2. Make a network of innovators and a network of users.

3. Establish technology transfer offices in each institute to teach and practice patenting, IPR etc.

4. Give momentum to QIP for M.Pharm and Ph.D.

5. Encourage pharmacy teachers to attend international conferences and visits abroad.

6. Practice exchange of experts from foreign countries to have better scientific and fruitful interaction.

7. Increase investment in Pharmaceutical education and research, this is the only way to grow faster.

8. Persuade industry to collaborate with colleges and share efforts.

9. Keep libraries and laboratories open to researchers for 24 hours.

10.  Start teaching and research associateship schemes as like in US.

11.  Revision in service conditions of professors to maintain their mobility, competency, innovativeness.

12.  Organize seminars, refresher programs, workshop and training programs continuously in collaboration with industries.

13.  Up gradation of Diploma program keeping community pharmacy practice as main area.

By this way, we can improve and update the knowledge to face global challenges.

Current Problems In Pharmacy Education: -

There are number of problems which creates barrier in development of Pharma education. Some of the cases highlighted for the decline in the quality and the quantity of the Indian contribution to pharmaceutical sciences are as follows:-

1.   Noco-ordination between PCI, AICTE, and MCI.

2.   Minimum or no industry-institute interaction.

3.   Minimum or less computer aided pharmacy education

4.   No proper teaching

5.  Minimum collaboration with foreign pharmacy institute and distance education.

Suggestions and solutions of the above problems: -

Pharmacy education has an integral component of technical & professional education. It has to rise up to the expectation of building up the capabilities in innovations, skillful operations and problem solving health care system of our country. Regarding this, some of the solutions and suggestions to upgrade the pharmacy education are as follow,

Ø AICTE / PCI related problems: -

AICTE and PCI should work with the view to proper planning and co-ordinate development of the pharmacy education system throughout the country, as they are responsible for the regulations and maintenance of norms and standard in pharmacy education systems. As PCI and AICTE appears to be always at loggerhead while dealing with regulations of pharmacy education in India.

Non existence of institutes in North East regions of India, non utilization of intake capacity due to higher concentration of self financing pharmacy institutions in different states, different academic eligibility criteria, nonexistence of uniform common entrance tests for students, discrepancies in faulty positions and carrier advancements in different technical fields. These will adversely affect on pharmacy education.

Ø Industry – Institute Interaction: -

An interaction between industry-academic institutions is a matter of great relevance in the present context of globalization of pharmaceutical education. Industry experts should be associated as faculty in training period; faculty member should get exposure to industrial environments. Industrial experts should act, as external examiner to aid industry-academic and the institute should form collaborations with industries.

Present status of Department of science and technology sponsored study maintains that Industry-Institute interaction is extremely low, exposure of students to industry is virtually nil and teachers have little interest in work other than assigned. The linkages between institution and industry are too thin. This is unfortunately a pessimistic conclusion.

Institutions will have to prepare students who have to be very effective for tomorrow. Improvement in the context of instructions and greater availability of continuing education will have to be provided.

Different areas and models of industry–institute partnership are practisized in many technical institutions in the country.

The three new areas are; Lifelong learning to increase and improve the competencies, Total performance management of institutes, Development of entrepreneurs.

Reasons for educating and training with political, economical and technological environment can be overcome by the following courses with different mixture of knowledge, skills and understanding levels as:

1) Awareness courses: Mainly concern with knowledge and Understanding

2) Updating courses:  For recent developments in specialist knowledge.

3) Training courses:Mainly for teaching specific skills with supportive knowledge

4) Upgrading course:Aims to advance peoples skills and understanding in specific areas for gaining higher education.

5) Conversion course:Courses intended in subjects other than subject of first qualification.

With the advent of ISO 9000 quality system standard every industry are trying to come under this standard to compete in international market.

And training entrepreneurs must employ the following programs to increase the industry academic interaction and these are by,

1) Entrepreneurship awareness camp.                                                                                                                                                                                

2) Entrepreneurship development program.                                                                                              

3) Two years training in industry 

This enables both students and faculty to become aware of the needs of industry and participate in addressing industrial problems. So the industry-academic collaborations shall help the institutions becomes self reliant, the course curriculum practical oriented, the faculty conscious of the industrial requirements and the budding Pharmacists better trained for meaningful industrial assignments.

Ø Implementation of computer aided pharmacy education: -

India has witnessed alarming progress in computer technology. There is a need to emphasis the student to habituate for utilization of multimedia computers and software technologies. Pharmaceutical and technological aspects requiring graphic representation and mathematical complexities in biopharmaceutical calculations, computer-aided programs can simplify GMP, validation etc.

SOFTWARE APPLICATION                                         

CADIS                                    Drug information

BIOWARE                               Bioavailability concepts

FACTOP                                 Optimization of pharmaceutical       

                                              Dosage form

QUICK TABLET                     Fundamentals of tablet dosage Form

Ø Implementation of digital technological teaching methods: -

The main aim of digital technology is to develop excellence in pharmaceutical education and make person more skilled to suit the modern environment and cater to the needs of rapid industrialization. The oral instructions have always been an important method of transfer of information from the teachers to be taught, but to attract the interactions following new techniques really helps. 

1.Video lectures:-

Eminent persons in the field of education and in industry can prepare some video lectures in their fields of specialization for use by the university students, many processes taught in classes should also be available as video tapes.

2.Tele conferences: -

This facility is not very well developed in India so far, if it is not long before adequate tele conferences will be possible between most universities, such conferences will enable students to ask questions from eminent peoples anywhere in the world.

3.Televised programs in selected topics.

4. Programmed correspondents between students & universities across the Nation.

5.Distributive newsletters.

There is need to improve the level of teaching which is main objective of Pharma education. The comparison between conventional & novel approach of teaching is as follows,

Conventional Teaching Method Novel Teaching Method
Unidirectional  Interactive
Emphasis on memorization Emphasis on clarity of Concepts
Poor or no feedback to Teacher’s  Continues feedback to  Teachers
Threatening for students and   Monotonous for teachers   Enjoyable for both
Emphasis only non-writing skills With total neglects 

Development of writing  Skills as well as oral 

Of Oral communication Skills Communication  Skills 
Student passive recipient   Students active participant  

So by applying these novels concepts one can improve the student active participation in the field of Pharma education.

Digital technologies like computer networking wherein computer aided learning is possible by software’s like CHEMWINDOW, STAT- 100, PCCA etc. used for teaching purposes, simulation libraries, digital libraries are used in which soft wares like SIGMAPLOT is used for data analysis.

Ø Collaboration with foreign pharmacy institute & distance education:

Pharmacy institutes have never been to the forefront as far as international collaboration is concerned compared to IIT’s or IIM’s. If pharmacy institutes carry out through needs, assessment with clear defined goals, objectives and outcomes of the programs then collaborative distance learning can be reality in real time.

With rapid development of international contact & trade in the backdrop of WTO, international exchange & co-operation in pharmaceutical education is surely to develop further. Similarly, the western European countries have rich experience of the role, which the pharmacist have played in health care at both hospital & community settings, clinical pharmacy, therapeutic drug monitoring, drug information, rational use of drug, patient counseling & social pharmacy are the hall marks of quality pharmaceutical care provided in health care system.

Though international co-operations are considered prestigious in our country we fail to recognize the strength within us, i.e. strengths in the educational institutions in our country. It cannot be denied that the co-operating universities from abroad are the major beneficiaries. International co-operation by way of acquiring technology, traditional knowledge & results of our basic research, which forms the basis for the developmental research work. If that were the case then why not we draw upon our own strength and have INTRANATIONAL CO-OPERATION. The statutory bodies such as UGC, AICTE, PCI etc. should encourage international co-operation & networking amongst institutions, besides the encouragement of National co-operation.

The professional bodies such as Indian Pharmaceutical Association, Indian Pharmacy Graduate Association & Indian Hospital Pharmacy Association should come forward with unique scheme for encouraging twinning of institutions & support these institutions in managing financially as well as orally.

Conclusion: -

As the tidal waves of change are gathering force at the foreseeable horizon and are likely to surge forward with great speed and thrust, we take note of these omens of change and prepare our boats to withstand the same. If we move with the waves we may be sailing towards an advanced future, If we do not we are sure to get tumbled culminating in disarray & disorganizations, choice is ours.

This is the change we need in Pharma-education to develop and strengthen the profession for this millennium.

References: -               

1) Lalla J.K., Pharmacy Education- Challenges ahead –My Perception, Ind.J.Pharm.Edu. 1999, 33, 24.

2)   Kokate C.K. Pharmaceutical Education in India, Vision   2010, Ind.J.Pharm.Edu. 1999,77, 33.

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10)   Rao G.P., Continuing Pharmaceutical education (CPE-4) ISO-9000 Series A primer, Ind.J.Pharm.Edu.1996, 30 14.

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15) G.Jagdeesh, Software program & the Web in Pharmaceutical Education & Research, Ind.J.Pharm.Edu., 1997,31,144.

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17) Balaram P., Curr. Sci. 2003,84,5.

18)Higby G.J. American Pharmacy in Twentieth Century, Am.J.Health.Syst.Pharmacy 1997, 54, 1805.

19)All India Council For Technical Education, Format & Guidelines, Industry-Institute partnership Cell.


20)Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties home page,

About Authors:

 Jessy Shaji  

Jessy Shaji

For Correspondence

Vikrant Chadawar

Vikrant Chadawar

Prin. K.M.Kundnani College of pharmacy, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai – 400 005

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