India is a developing nation that is home to over 1.1 billion people. Rapidly growing, the country accounts for 2.4% of the world’s surface but is home to 16.7% of the world’s population.Throughout its 28 states and 7 union territories, 22 national languages have been recognized and upwards of 400 mother tongues and 800 different dialects are in common use.
The earliest traditional systems of medicine practiced in India have been Ayurveda and Siddha. The Unani Greco-Arabic medical system, came from West Asia. The colonial period brought the new western system of medicine and paved the way for pharmacy to emerge in India.
In India, formal pharmacy education leading to a degree began with the introduction of a 3-year bachelor of pharmacy (BPharm) at Banaras Hindu University in 1937. At that time, the curriculum was presented as a combination of pharmaceutical chemistry, analytical chemistry, and pharmacy, which prepared graduates to work as specialists in quality control and standardization of drugs for pharmaceutical companies, but not for pharmacy practice. Since then, in terms of social status and importance, the profession has already registered a topsy–turvy growth curve. There has been a steady increase in the number of Indian institutions offering various pharmacy courses including Diploma in Pharmacy, Bachelor in Pharmacy, Masters in Pharmacy as well as Doctorate in Pharmacy.
A variety of pharmacy degree programs are offered in India:
- Diploma in pharmacy (DPharm)
- Bachelor of pharmacy (BPharm)
- Master of pharmacy (MPharm)
- Master of science in pharmacy [MS (Pharm)]
- Master of technology in pharmacy [MTech (Pharm)]
- Doctor of pharmacy (PharmD)
- Doctor of philosophy in pharmacy (PhD)
The entry point, for DPharm, BPharm, and PharmD programs is 12 years of formal education in the sciences. The DPharm program requires a minimum of 2 years of didactic coursework followed by 500 hours of required practical training anticipated to be completed within 3 months in either a hospital or community setting The BPharm involves 4 years of study in colleges affiliated with universities or in a university department. Students holding a BPharm degree can earn an MPharm degree in 2 years, of which the second year is devoted to research leading to a dissertation in any pharmaceutical discipline, for instance pharmaceutics, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, or pharmacognosy. Recently, MPharm programs on industrial pharmacy, quality assurance, and pharmaceutical biotechnology have been introduced. To train the graduate pharmacist to provide clinical-oriented services, the MPharm program in pharmacy practice was introduced at Jagadguru Sri Shivaratreeswara (JSS) College of pharmacy at Mysore in 1996 and at Ooty in 1997.
There are 6 National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs) in India offering MS (Pharm), MTech (Pharm), and higher-level degrees. Students with an MPharm degree in any discipline can work toward a PhD with an additional minimum 3 years of study and research. The PharmD program constitutes 6 years of full-time study. The PharmD (post-baccalaureate) program is a 3-year program. The PharmD program was introduced in 2008 with the aim of producing pharmacists who had undergone extensive training in practice sites and could provide pharmaceutical care to patients. At present there are more than 1500 institutions offering various pharmacy programs of Diploma, undergraduate, postgraduate and Pharm.D with an annual intake of more than 100,000 students. The syllabus is more industry oriented and mainly caters to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmacists with undergraduate and postgraduate qualification preferred working in industry rather than community pharmacy due to lucrative job opportunities. Therefore, most of the community pharmacists are Diploma holders in India. The patent regime triggered the growth of Indian pharmaceutical industry as an innovative Industry.
Current Status of the Pharmacy Profession in India
Pharmacy education in India has witnessed tremendous expansion in the last decade. However, the standards in education have been eroded by rising tides of mediocrity. There is an urgent need to initiate an academic exercise to revamp the curriculum to keep pace with current and emerging trends in the field of pharmacy. There are 6 million pharmacists in India, of which one million are in community pharmacy. Diploma holders largely handle the pharmacy profession and the provision of quality pharmaceutical care is still a dream. However, significant developments underway may change the situation. These new developments are as follows:
- Increase in consumer awareness
- Awareness among the pharmacists on the need to provide direct patient care
- Entry of international players in community pharmacy and health insurance
- Increase in awareness that quality pharmaceutical care can be delivered only by pharmacists trained in direct patient care
Pharmacy education in India, both at the BPharm and MPharm levels, is taught as an industry and product oriented profession with a focus on the basic sciences. During the past decade, pharmacy education has expanded significantly in terms of number of institutions offering pharmacy programs at various levels. However, pharmacy education in India continues to be one of the last options for students aspiring to obtain a university degree. The pharmacists with a BPharm or MPharm generally seek avenues other than pharmacy practice. Only small numbers of these graduates and postgraduates opt to work in community and institutional pharmacies. In India, diploma holders (DPharm holders) are practicing pharmacists in the global sense as they engage in community or institution pharmacy practice.
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