India in relation to Pharmacy Practice
Pharmaceutical science and technology had made commendable progress during the last 50
years worldwide leading to a dramatic change in the role of the pharmacist in the developed
world. Traditionally, pharmacists have compounded and dispensed medications on the orders
of physicians. More recently, pharmacy practice has come to include other services related to
patient care including clinical practice, medication review, and drug information. Pharmacy practice is a collection of curative, preventive, rehabilitative and promotive services and in addition, it has a social and economic endeavor encompassing activities by providers, consumers, financers and government within their respective value systems.
The other areas in the wide spectrum of pharmacy profession include teaching & training, regulatory,
roles in industry and research. Indian economy is treading on a high growth path and India is poised to become third largest economy by 2025 with sustained growth of around 8 – 10% per annum. India has a leadership role amongst the developing economies of the world and linked with globalization and the WTO. Tremendous opportunities are likely to be thrown up with pharmacy and healthcare
sectors being one of the sunrise areas. These emerging opportunities have prompted deeper look into the human resources for the pharmacy sector. This will have its impact on the demand for healthcare coupled with the aspirations and expectations of her people.
Pharmacists represent the third largest healthcare professional group in the world. The
majority of pharmacists practice in community pharmacies, hospitals and other medical
facilities. Smaller numbers of pharmacists are employed in the pharmaceutical industry3.
Pharmacy is a transitional field between health sciences and chemical sciences and a
profession charged with ensuring the safe use of medication. Pharmacists are the experts in
medications within the health care team and their education and training is directed to
delivering quality drug therapy to their patients.
Pharmaceutical service is a sub-system of healthcare which continuously helps to combat
death, disease, disability, dissatisfaction and social disruption. A large section of the
community interacts with the pharmacies/ drug stores and the pharmacists for healthcare
necessities, products and advice.
The pharmacist’s profession has existed in some form or the other since times immemorial
and always attempted to enhance quality of life, health, longevity and the prevention and cure
of diseases. The existence of pharmacists is known since the earliest traditional system of
medicine in India which is Ayurveda and Siddha. The Unani Medicine came from West Asia
and the European colonizers brought with them the western form of medicine called allopathic
During the nineteenth century there were subordinate classes of hospital assistants and
apothecaries who performed medico-pharmaceutics functions. These European chemists and
druggists proved to be successful “businessmen” and added other profitable lines to their
businesses such as general merchandise leading to the perception of pharmacists as
“shopkeeper” or merchant and this image persists to date.
The pharmacy sector and especially pharmacy practice during pre independence era was
highly unregulated and full of malpractices. There was a big outcry regarding the prevailing
situation which prompted the then government to constitute Drugs Enquiry Committee 1930-
-31. It was only in 1940 that the first Drugs Act was enacted and in 1948 finally the
comprehensive pharmacy act came into being.
The pharmacy profession in India has come a long way from colonial past to the present day
which is full of contrast. On one side is the pharmaceutical industry which is of global
standards and on the other side pharmacy practice has remained behind time. The public in general is not aware that a pharmacist is a competent professional and this is possibly due to
a lack of initiative shown by the regulatory system, educational institutions and the
Policies and Regulations
Pharmacy education, profession and practice in India are regulated by the Pharmacy Act
1948. Under the act, a person fulfilling the prescribed eligibility criteria has to get registered
with the state pharmacy council in order to practice pharmacy. The Pharmacy Council of India
(PCI) is a main regulatory body formed under the Pharmacy Act to implement its provisions.
The act also mandates the constitution of State Pharmacy Councils for the purpose of
registration of pharmacists and regulation of pharmacy practice. The act provide authority to
the state pharmacy council to inspect any premises where drugs are compounded or
dispensed, enquire whether a person who is engaged in compounding or dispensing of drugs
is a registered pharmacist and institute prosecution under the order of the Executive
Committee of the State Council. (for details see appendix B)
For the purpose of regulating pharmacy education under the Pharmacy Act, the first Education
Regulation was framed in 1953 and amended in 1972 and 1981. Currently the Education
Regulation 1991 is in force which regulates diploma course in pharmacy. The Education
Regulation 1991 has defined minimum qualification for admission in diploma course and
curriculum for the same. The pharmacy council of India provides approval and regulates
diploma (D Pharma) & degree (B Pharma) courses.
Pharmacy education is also regulated by the All India Council for Technical Education
(AICTE) which has been established under the AICTE Act 1987. The AICTE focuses on
maintaining norms and standards in technical education which also include pharmacy. It
regulates the degree, post graduate and other higher level courses. However an educational
institution imparting pharmacy training needs to be recognized and approved by the PCI for
the qualifications to be accepted for registration as a pharmacist.
Besides the pharmacy act, pharmacy practice is also governed by Drugs and Cosmetics Act
1940 together with Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945 (framed under the act). The act
regulates the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs.
The practitioners of Indian system of medicine and homeopathy together called AYUSH,
roughly equals the number of allopathic practitioners in the country. These practitioners are
also the drug dispenser and in some cases engaged in compounding. In order to regulate the
profession and practice of pharmacy under these schools of medicines, the government has
introduced the Indian Medicine and Homeopathy Pharmacy Bill 2005 in the parliament.
Once passed by the parliament, the bill will become an act. This act will lead to constitution of
pharmacy council for AYUSH similar to PCI.
Currently, the focus and priorities of the government in the health sector is governed by the
National Health Policy 2002 (NHP). Pharmacy being an important component of the health
sector is also governed by the national health policy. The main objective of this policy is to
achieve an acceptable standard of good health amongst the general population of the country.
The policy gives overriding importance to ensuring a more equitable access to health services
across the social and geographical expanse of the country. The policy also emphasizes on
rational use of drugs within the allopathic system. The policy does not explicitly state the role
of pharmacists in achieving the policy objectives, however pharmacist as a part of the
healthcare team have an important role to achieve the policy goals. In order to bridge the gap
in availability of doctors in rural areas, the policy suggests that some of the public health
functions be taken up by the existing healthcare personnel in those areas. Pharmacists would
be ideally suited to undertake this expanded role because of their training in drug therapy.
More recently, the Government of India has launched the National Rural Health Mission
(NRHM) in 2005 to carry out necessary architectural correction in the basic health care
delivery system. The National Rural Health Mission (2005-12) seeks to provide effective
healthcare to rural population throughout the country with special focus on 18 states, which
have weak public health indicators and/or weak infrastructure. Some of the core strategies of
NRHM include strengthening of public health infrastructure as per the Indian Public Health
Standard (IPHS) and formulation of transparent policies for deployment and career
development of Human Resources for health. The mission’s emphasis on filling up all
positions as per IPHS will lead to employment opportunities for the pharmacists.
National pharmaceutical Policy 2002 & draft policy 2006 are the only policies having
bearing on the human resources in the pharmacy sector especially those in industrial
pharmacy. The pharmaceutical policy emphasizes on strengthening production capabilities,
quality assurance and encouraging research & development in pharmaceutical industry.
These policies are likely to increase employment opportunities for pharmacists. Further the
policy also emphasizes on the role of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and
Research (NIPER) in upgrading the standards of pharmacy education and R&D and plans to
open more such institutions.
There is no specific policy for promoting the role of pharmacists in the Indian healthcare
system. While the health related policies are governed by the ministry of health & family
welfare, policies related to drugs and pharmaceutical industry are placed under the ministry of
chemical & fertilizer.