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Control of pharmacy education in India
Prof. M. Sukumar | Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Pharmacy education in India, unlike in other countries of the world, is cursed with the dual control by two statutory bodies - All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). This is a very strange and unfortunate situation. Even in Pakistan, our neighboring country, which has comparatively poor infrastructure in the health and pharmacy sectors, pharmacy education and profession are controlled and regulated by only one statutory body namely, Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP). In all the advanced countries in the world, the pharmacy profession and education are controlled by the concerned councils, societies or the professional associations of pharmacy.

In India, such wise counsels did not prevail or not allowed to prevail. As a result pharmacy education has been put under the control of the alien body namely AICTE also. The Pharmacy Act 1948 was framed to regulate pharmacy education and profession in India and until 1978 this was the only statutory body which had control over pharmacy education and profession in our country. But consequent to the passage of All India Council for Technical Education Act 1987, pharmacy was included under it also even though technical aspects in pharmacy curriculum in the undergraduate level formed only a meager 20 per cent of the subject content.

Financial benefits under AICTE
The only advantage of the pharmacy education coming under the control of the AICTE is the financial benefits that accrue in terms of research funds, stipend etc. to the teachers and students of pharmacy. This should not be the criteria for relegating the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), the parent pharmacy body, to a lower position as far as pharmacy education is concerned. It is not a valid argument that only AICTE can allot funds to the pharmacy educational institutions and therefore it has to be given greater regard than what should be given to the PCI. This view is akin to one holding one’s rich mother in law in high esteem and supporting her while placing one’s own mother in lower position and neglecting her. Such unholy views and attitudes may suit business establishments but not educational institutions, educators and pharmacy professionals.

Experts' opinions
There is currently a perception in some quarters that experts in pharmacy education hold the view that it would be ideal to have pharmacy education under the exclusive control of AICTE. This is a fallacious assumption not supported by real facts. In the recently held 69th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress (IPC) in Chitkara University, Rajpura, Punjab, from 22nd to 24th December, 2017, a unanimous resolution has been passed that pharmacy education should be brought exclusively under the control of the PCI i.e. under one umbrella. This resolution has been sent to the Government of India for consideration. It need not be emphasized here that Indian Pharmaceutical Congress Association (IPCA) under whose auspices IPC is conducted is an All India Organization made up of experts from all the fields of pharmacy profession, including pharmacy education (Members of the Association of Pharmaceutical Teachers of India).

Can money be the major criterion in education?
Is money the only criteria in life and education? If such attitude is allowed to be developed in the minds of the younger generation, particularly those who will be serving the public in the health sector in future, then the almighty god only can help them and the people of India. There is no denying the reality that money for research and for providing stipends for the students is a factor which cannot be ignored completely.  Ideal solution to this issue is to divert the funds allocated to the AICTE for pharmacy sector to the PCI and so that the PCI can carry out the allocation of the funds. Will it not be wise get the pharmacy courses separated from the outside agency like AICTE and see to that they remain exclusively with parent statutory body, the PCI with funding powers?

Recent developments and Pharm D course
Adding insult to injury, recently the 6 years Pharm D course is also brought under the control of the AICTE even though it is purely a hospital oriented clinical subject without any technological component in the curriculum as in the case of the B Pharmacy course. This decision is made by the technical education regulator, namely, AICTE, after nearly 9 years of inception of the course. AICTE must have made this belated decision to bring the Pharm D course under its control out of compulsions of the time and not based on reasonable facts of the matter. There is a misconception among some pharmacy professionals that AICTE refrained itself from regulating the Pharm D programme till recently as there was confusion about the future of the Pharm D course among the students of pharmacy. This is a very strange view indeed. The Pharm D course is being conducted for the past nine years and many batches of students have come out and got successfully and fruitfully employed. How come it has taken nearly nine years for the AICTE to come to the conclusion that future of the Pharm D course and Pharm D graduates are now assured?

World scenario in pharmacy education
Unlike in India, in no other country in the world pharmacy education comes under the technical education or under the dual control of two regulatory bodies. A specific example for proving the correctness of this statement is the fact that even in our neighboring country, Pakistan, pharmacy profession and education are regulated by the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP). In all the other countries in the world pharmacy education and profession are regulated by their own parent bodies like pharmaceutical societies, pharmaceutical associations etc. namely General Pharmaceutical Council of USA, General Pharmaceutical Council of UK, Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programmes, Australian Pharmacy Council, Chinese Pharmaceutical Association, and Pharmacy Council of Nigeria.

Majority of the pharmacy academicians and professionals are of the opinion that it is high time that the curse of the control over pharmacy education by dual statutory bodies viz. All India Council for Technical Education and Pharmacy Council of India, should be lifted immediately so that as in all the other countries of the world, the pharmacy education is brought exclusively under the control of its own parent body, the PCI. This opinion is clearly expressed in the unanimous resolution passed by the 69th IPC, December, 2018 in Chandigarh.

(Author is professor and head (Retd.), Department of Pharmaceutical Science, Coimbatore Medical College, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu  641 030)

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