Suppose you study for six-seven years of your life, spend a fortune and face lots of hardship in finishing a course. After its completion, you try to get a government job as a professional who has the right qualification, but you can’t because the job you want does not exist. All your effort goes to waste.
This is what’s happening to students who have done the Pharm.D (Doctor of Pharmacy) course. This course was introduced in 2008 by Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). It is a Pre-PhD post-graduate doctoral programme similar to Doctor of Medicine (MD) for doctors and Doctor of Dental Sciences (DDS) for dentists. This course is divided into two programmes. First is the Pharm.D (Regular) course which has a duration of six years for students taking admission after completing their 10+2 or D.Pharm (Diploma of Pharmacy). Another programme is known as Pharm.D (Post Baccalaureate) which has a duration of three years. It is for those students who have graduated in B.Pharm (Bachelor of Pharmacy) which is a four years course. So, a pharmacy student would spend seven pivotal years of their life in getting the two degrees.
Why was this course introduced?
1. Well, India is a big country, with a large population, old and poor infrastructure, facing major healthcare-related issues especially when it comes to safe and rationale drug (medicine) use by common people as well as by healthcare professionals. People nowadays suffer from multiple diseases and seek treatments from multiple sources. This puts their health in even more danger.
2. The doctors, on the other hand, have to treat these patients, prescribe them medicines. More often than not, the information related to these medicines is provided to the doctors by medical representatives of multinational companies who want to increase their sales. This is risky because the information provided by these medical representatives might not be authentic or fact-based, because everyone claims that their medicines are safer and cheaper to use.
3. The doctors are very busy all the time because of a large number of patients that they have to treat. Due to this, they don’t have time to extensively counsel the patients regarding their ailments. As a result, patients don’t understand the importance of taking medicines on time and sticking to the medical advice of the doctor, and this again leads to the deterioration of their health.
4. So to combat these issues, it was decided that there is a need of a healthcare professional who can provide evidence-based information to the doctors by participating in ward rounds and ensure the best treatment is received by the patients, counselling the patients about their disease and medicines and ensure safe and rationale drug use. Hence, this course was introduced, to train professionals who would be known as ‘Clinical Pharmacists’.
The issues started to appear when the government introduced the course but forgot to create a cadre for the post of ‘Clinical Pharmacist’. In the absence of these designations, students are rendered jobless. Then they look for job opportunities in the private sector where they are offered starting salaries of a mere ₹15,000-16,000. The problem becomes worse when they have to compete with other pharmacy students who have completed their B.Pharm or M.Pharm, who haven’t received theoretical knowledge or practical training to work as Clinical Pharmacists.
There are 233 colleges approved by the PCI to run the Pharm.D programme. They have produced an overall of 20,000 graduates, and approximately 9,000 more are graduating each year. These colleges charge up to ₹2,50,000 per year for this course. One can understand the pain and sorrow of these students after investing an exorbitant amount of money and time, gaining knowledge and being unable to utilise it in the right place.
Who is accountable for this?
The government, the Pharmacy Council of India or Health Ministry? The answer is hard to find. But when asked about this issue PCI said they are working on it, the Health minister said that graduates are eligible to work as a Pharmacist while being silent on the issue of creating the post for Clinical Pharmacists in the government sector.
It is very disheartening to see the results of such a far-sighted course. Both the government and PCI have failed to display the zeal necessary to salvage this important course that can help to address present and future health care issues. Now it is up to professional bodies and the government, whether they want to step in and do something about it or let these unfortunate souls curse their decision of joining a profession which they cannot practice even after holding a Dr. prefix before their names.