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Are ayurvedic pharmacy programmes derailed?
Dr. Amritpal Singh | Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Ayurvedic pharmacy courses are in high demand these days due to acceptance of Ayush at global level. Several institutes are imparting education at diploma, graduate and postgraduate levels. B. Pharm-Ayurveda and M. Pharm-Ayurveda are specified degrees under Section 22 of the UGC Act, 1956. But, the major issue is recognition and registration of courses related to ayurvedic pharmacy.

In 2016, the Department of Ayush invited public comments on the draft Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016. The Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 is for enactment to regulate the education and practice of pharmacy in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy. However, no practical steps have been taken to implement the provisions of the Bill in India.  

MS (Traditional Medicine) course by NIPER
National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education, Mohali, initiated MS (Traditional Medicine) degree course in 2007 under the department of Natural products. The chief mandate of the course was to cater the need of the ayurvedic and natural medicine industry by providing expert trained professionals and manpower. The course failed to evoke response in terms of demand and popularity among pharmacy students. The poor response can be considered to be main factor in non-initiating of Ph. D. course in traditional medicine.

Normally traditional medicine falls within the purview of ethnomedicine. Indian ethnomedicine is nowadays addressed as Ayush (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), formerly known as ISM&H (Indian System of Medicine and Homoeopathy) or ASU (Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani). Ethnomedicines are also known as traditional drugs within definition coined by World Health Organization.

Conventionally, approval of allopathic pharmacy courses is the subject of Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). Since traditional medicine falls within spectrum of department of Ayush, the approval of courses related to ayurvedic pharmacy is automatic subject matter of the same. However, there is no ayurvedic pharmacy council at central level regulating the study and practice in Ayush profession.

As far as the recognition of MS-Traditional Medicine programme offered by National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali is concerned, as per Section 32 of the NIPER Act, 1998, the institute has power to grant degrees and other academic distinctions and titles under the Act. Further, as per Ministry of Home Affair’s OM No.6/1/64-Estt.D, 1964, degrees and diplomas awarded by Indian Universities incorporated by an Act of Central or State Legislature or established by an Act of Parliament are automatically recognized for the purpose of employment. As per NIPER Act, MS (Traditional Medicine) course does not require recognition by any other authority.

Further, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has issued advisory for MS (Pharm) degree awarded by NIPERs. Similarly, Pharmacy Council of India has made necessary announcement regarding recognition of degrees awarded by NIPERs

The main issue is registration of students passing out MS (Traditional Medicine) course. Since, degrees related to Ayurveda are registered by the office of Board of Ayurvedic and Unani Systems of Medicine at state level. The Ayurveda pharmacists (B. Pharm or M. Pharm) have to register themselves with the State Ayurvedic Councils in order to open up chemist shop or to set up manufacturing unit. In rare cases, Ayurveda pharmacists are employed as technical persons in Ayurveda manufacturing units.

As far as career prospects of MS (Traditional Medicine) course are concerned, the primary place seems to be the Ayurvedic/natural/herbal medicine industry. There must be a provision of registration of MS (Traditional Medicine) degree holders with State Ayurvedic boards. In this regard, the ministry of pharmaceuticals must make mandatory arrangements for registration for registration of MS (Traditional Medicine) degree holders similar to persons holding B. Pharm in Ayurveda.

Career prospects after ayurveda pharmacy
A person holding diploma in Ayurveda (D. Pharm-Ayurveda) can work as pharmacist, or dispenser in government or private ayurvedic hospitals. They can join pharmaceutical companies as sales representative or set up entrepreneurship by opening ayurvedic medical store. After passing out D. Pharm-Ayurveda, enrolment in B. Pharm-Ayurveda is possible.

A person holding degree in Ayurveda (B. Pharm-Ayurveda) can join industry as production manager, technical person, quality control executive or drug inspector. After passing out B. Pharm-Ayurveda, enrolment in M. Pharm is possible. Going for admission in MBA is another source for career planning.

Registration issues of ayurvedic pharmacists
The Government of Punjab notified scheme for registration of Ayurvedic/Unani Pharmacist in Punjab. In 2012, the State ministry of Gujarat adopted an interim (stop gap) arrangement for registration of Ayurvedic pharmacists until enactment of Ayurvedic Pharmacist Act is not achieved.

One fails to understand when diploma and degrees are launched by institutions or universities, why necessary steps are not taken for future of students. The approval and recognition processes of such diploma and degrees are so much complicated that two or three bodies are involved in inspection process for issuing letter for admission. As an instance, admission in Ayurvedachraya (B.A.M.S) degree is done on basis of inspection carried out by Central Council of Indian Medicine, The Department of Ayush, the concerned university and concerned state.  

Until or unless, Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 is not implemented fully, the registration and practice issues of Ayurvedic pharmacists shall continue. B. Pharm degree holders coming out of private universities are not being granted registration by State Ayurvedic Councils. This has been witnessed in case of students passing out B. Pharm Ayurveda degree from Lovely Professional University, Phagwara.

A comprehensive policy is need of the hour
Central Council of Indian Medicine and Department of Ayush have taken concrete steps for upgrading standards in Ayurvedic Education. Establishment of an ayurvedic council at Central level on lines similar to Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) is must for regulating ayurvedic pharmacy. Central Pharmacy Council of Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy as per provisions of Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 shall be responsible for minimum standards of education required for qualification as a pharmacist in Indian Medicine or Homoeopathy. Number of institutions offering course in Homoeopathic pharmacy and Unani are however less in number as compared to ayurvedic pharmacy.

The Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016 need to be introduced without any delay for benefit of Ayush pharmacy professionals. The state governments also need to be selective and strict for regulation of Ayurvedic pharmacy courses. The courses are opened by private universities on basis of recognition of D. Pharm-Ayurveda and B. Pharm-Ayurveda by University Grants Commission (UGC) under Section 22 to award degree without knowing legal aspect. The golden question is that whether degree like D. Pharm-Ayurveda and B. Pharm-Ayurveda are granted recognition by Central Council of Indian Medicine and Department of Ayush.

Regulation of pharmacy education and practice
As per proposed regulations of The Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy Pharmacy Central Council Bill, 2016, any University, Board or Institution in India which grants a pharmacy qualification not included in the Schedule A may apply to the Central government to have such qualification recognized, and the Central government, after consulting the Central Pharmacy Council, may, by notification in the official gazette, amend the Schedule A so as to include such qualification therein, and any such notification may also direct that an entry shall be made in the last column of the Schedule A against such permission for establishment of new pharmacy college, course of study, etc. pharmacy qualification declaring that it shall be a recognized pharmacy qualification only when granted after a specified date.

 (Author is herbal consultant, based in Mohali)

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