PCI draft guidelines seek legal framework for pharmacists

PCI has also suggested a cap on the number of seats offered by pharmacy colleges to improve quality of education.

Mumbai: The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has proposed that pharmacists should be recognized as practising professionals with legal obligations not only to patients, but also to physicians and other healthcare workers.
“Medicines are being misused and the number of drug-induced diseases is increasing. So, we are looking to legally bind pharmacists (who are mostly employed in chemist shops) in delivering certain outcomes and emphasizing their competencies very clearly,” said B. Suresh, president of PCI, which last week submitted draft guidelines to the health ministry to this effect.
Pharmacists will also have to advise the patient on the right use of the medicines and be required to directly hand over medicines to patients. “If they fail to do so, it could result in temporary or permanent removal of registration of these pharmacists, and depending on the severity of the charge, we may even initiate criminal proceedings against them,” Suresh said.
He expects the health ministry to accept these proposals under the National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH), if the Bill to create the body is passed during the forthcoming budget.

PCI, in its draft guidelines, has also suggested a cap on the number of seats offered by pharmacy colleges to improve pharmacy education.
“Lax regulations over the number of seats that colleges were permitted to offer for the bachelor of pharmacy course led to colleges offering 300 seats as per the norms of All India Council for Technical Education or AICTE.” said Suresh. 

PCI regulations allow anywhere between 60-100 seats. “This has led to court cases being filed when we do not grant approval to colleges offering more than 100 seats,” said Suresh.
Currently, there are colleges that offer either a four-year bachelors course, a two-year diploma or a six-year doctorate to roughly 50,000 students a year. Pharmacists holding a doctorate can work in the field of medical therapy management, which allows them to take decisions on medicine intake of patients who require long-term medication for diseases such as diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and organ transplant patients. Currently, there are 70 students who have qualified for the pharmacy doctorate. 

PCI is also submitting a white paper on the various ways to improve quality of education in the field. The council, which had earlier proposed to scrap the diploma course and make it mandatory for all pharmacists to do a bachelors, has now revamped the course to make it effective and relevant to modern day care.
“The present one is more science-intensive, whereas the new diploma will be more practice intensive, more relevant to the physician, the patient and the community where they are working,” said Suresh, adding “they need more training with regards to safety, storage, adverse reactions, etc.”
Teachers of these courses will also come under the scanner and be held responsible for information they provide to the council, if the PCI recommendations are accepted by the government.
The council also hopes to update the education of the current diploma holders and is looking to introduce regulations to have a bridge programme—an online and contact-based programme that will allow these diploma holders to earn this degree while working. 

“We have submitted these regulations to all the states and have got good feedback. We hope to convert all diploma holders to degree holders in the next 10 years,” said Suresh.
Being recognized as professionals will also help pharmacists charge a service fee, though the chemists lobby said the move is not practical. “After paying the physicians fee as well as that of the drugs, consumers will not be willing to pay this fee as well. This is not practical,” said J.S. Shinde, president of the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists. Shinde, however, welcomed the other suggestions as they will be very useful to help update the knowledge of many pharmacists. “It will be very useful for older pharmacists and also likely to help them get higher salaries with better qualifications,” said Shinde.