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Pharmacy education and pharmacists’ role in healthcare

S. Unnikrishnan
Wednesday, May 17, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Today the pharmacy education is one of the knowledge-intensive sectors in healthcare. In the recent past, pharmacy educational institutions have made rapid strides to bring out highly technically skilled candidates for serving healthcare as well as pharmaceutical sectors.

Before independence, the study area in pharmacy education was limited because there were only few pharmacy colleges in India. Despite the serious handicap of resources, now the country has built-up and created good infrastructure for pharmacy education system.

Pharmacy institutions play an important role in creating well-trained manpower for the pharmacy profession. Well-trained and dedicated professionals is the most important aspect for the success of any profession.

In our nation, pharmacy institutions came to existence well before the enactment of the Pharmacy Act 1948. Those institutions concentrated in developing well-trained pharmacy professionals. After enactment of the Act, tremendous progress has been made by the pharmacy institutions in the field of pharmacy education.

Pharmacy education is heavily regulated in our country. While the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is mandated to provide approval to all institutions for academic programmes, the country’s pharmacy education regulator, Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) is a statutory body constituted to regulate the profession and practice of pharmacy.

The poor standards of pharmacy education will impact the pharmacy profession and pharmacy educational system, which will in turn affect the quality of pharmacy practicing system in the country. The PCI has to take immediate positive measures towards implementing strict monitoring systems to control running system of pharmacy institutions.

The role of pharmacists has undergone big transformation across the globe. There has been a paradigm shift from product-oriented approach to clinical- and patient-oriented approaches.

Pharmacists can play a significant role in treating patients as they have clinical expertise to make a difference in the way patients manage chronic conditions and can also be an affordable, accessible healthcare resource.

For many patients, it is easier to consult a pharmacist than a doctor. Since pharmacists already play an active role in coaching patients on potential side-effects of their medications, they can advise them on the exact dose of medicines to be taken as prescribed by the doctors.

Pharmacists, either in the hospital pharmacy or in the community pharmacy and clinical pharmacy must follow the principles of good pharmacy practices. No doubt, pharmacists are front line runners of healthcare services and are also most accessible.

Now their role is changing from a purely dispensing one to that of a more integrated healthcare service provider, who utilize knowledge and expertise in counselling and medications management. A pharmacist helps in dispelling pessimism and developing optimism in the patient community.

Pharmacists play a pivotal role in medication safety improvement. They function as powerful instruments that can help patients to avoid dangerous drug interactions and adverse healthcare effects.

Sometimes a pharmacist interacts with patients more often than a doctor. Modern healthcare is impossible without medicines and its consumption. The medicines are not only essential components for curing disease but are absolutely necessary for preventive care and health promotion.

The access to medicines is also viewed as human right. The handling of modern medicines needs specialized care. While the proper use of medicine benefits the humanity, the inappropriate use can lead to serious consequences.

The inappropriate handling of medicines may be disastrous as this may result in expiring well before the expiry date, wrong medicines reaching the patients or the system, harming the patients. Handling of medicines at different levels after manufacturing is managed by the pharmacists and this service is defined as pharmaceutical service.

Pharmacists should be smart enough to understand the requirements of the patients and act tactfully to comfort patients by their gesture and body language. Moreover they should never discourage patients who approach them for assistance. They should treat all patients with equal compassion so that they develop a sort of bondage with them resulting in more trust.

On the front line of healthcare sector, pharmacists play a significant role in primary and intensive healthcare facilities. The knowledge and skills of pharmacists and convenient accessibility for the public enable them to support the public by promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing them from long duration diseases and guiding patients to improve their dosage regimens.

The role of pharmacist has grown beyond traditional drug dispensing, compounding and distribution. In today’s world, the services of pharmacists involve higher patient-orientation, regulatory and public health functions. Pharmacists advise patients to take dose in a proper time so as to prevent any adverse consequences.

Moreover, pharmacists encourage patients to pose educated queries and suggestions regarding medication which can in turn assist in generating better prescriptions, and play a pivotal role among the healthcare providers because they are well informed as far as choice of drug delivery system is concerned and are quite aware about drug administration.

They serve as a link between healthcare providers because they maintain knowledge about drug delivery procedures and also play a key role in the dissemination of pharmaceutical knowledge.

Need for good facilities
Pharmacy institutions require good laboratory facilities and faculty. The emphasis should not be based on theoretical teaching only. This would impact practical skill competency in education programmes and the candidates who receive such education will not be useful to the country at all. The very purpose of human resources development would be defeated.

Over 70 per cent of the pharmacy institutions in the country which are set up after 1995 do not have adequate infrastructure facilities in many cities as per media reports. To safeguard the interest of pharmacy education in our country, it is needed to introduce a compulsory system of a preregistration examination as it exists in developed nations. With this stipulation, even if a candidate passes the pharmacy course, he requires to pass the preregistration examination set by the Pharmacy Council of India to practice pharmacy profession.

There are concerns over the poor quality of standards prevailing in the pharmacy educational system in India, which is increasingly affecting the quality of pharmacy profession, say experts.

So, it is the need of the hour by the Pharmacy Council of India, the statutory authority governing all levels of pharmaceutical education in the country, to take immediate measures towards implementing strict monitoring systems to control pharmacy institutions.

Some pharmacy colleges do not have required number of teaching faculty, say some reliable sources in pharmacy institutions. The immediate action needed is to revise the existing pharmacy educational regulations and framing of new pharmacy educational system. It can be viewed as an opportunity to develop pharmacy education which will reflect modern concepts of learning.

The quality of pharmacy education imparted by the pharmacy institutions will have everlasting impact on quality of healthcare system. Any lapse in upgrading the current pharmacy curriculum system will badly affect the quality of educational system of the country in future.

Pharmacy education cannot keep away from changes and innovations. The statutory body of pharmacy education has to be more vigilant on pharmacy institutions to meet and reach global standards in pharmacy education.

The teaching faculty of pharmacy institutions have to update their knowledge by attending workshops and the short-term courses that reviews and update subjects for those who have not kept abreast of developments.

The harmonization of pharmaceutical education has to be made a global agenda that will include in scope the developments that have taken place in basic pharmaceutical sciences in delivering the requirements and expectations of the society and the industry.

In the changing scenario, the relevance of traditionally offered industry-centered pharmacy education should be reviewed and an effective pharmacy education policy must be framed across the country.

So there is an urgent need to revise the existing pharmacy education regulations to safeguard the society and the pharmacy sector. Drawing up new pharmacy educational regulations can be viewed as an opportunity to develop pharmacy education to reflect the modern concepts of teaching.

Pharmacists are not only involved in retailing, wholesaling and hospital pharmacy but also in other sectors like pharmaceutical manufacturing, providing 24×7 access to medication and other pharmaceutical needs to the society.

The pharmacist, being the benefactor of patients, should take the responsibility of the patients. Pharmacist, after consulting the doctor, shall make appropriate changes in the prescription as governed by the principles of medical sciences and practices.

(The author is a practicing chemical engineer based in Mumbai)


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