Pharmacists represent the third largest healthcare professional group in the world, but unfortunately they are underestimated and underutilized in many developing nations including India and China.
In India, till April 2022 , Total 16,86,342 Pharmacists have been registered with PCI. Among these, maximum pharmacists are registered from the Maharashtra (20%).
After this, the most registered pharmacists are in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have 14% and 10% registered pharmacists respectively. The least registered pharmacists are Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, in which only 277 and 355 pharmacists are registered respectively.
Under the Pharmacy Act 1948, Registered Pharmacists register under state/central pharmacy council and their presence is legally required during the dispensing and selling of medicines.
To obtain a Pharmacist registration certificate, pharmacist must acquire the minimum diploma (D Pharm.) from a pharmacy institute that is recognized by the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI).
Both D. Pharm. and B. Pharm. holders are allowed to practice in any sector of pharmacy. However, the B. Pharm. course was designed in such a way as to satisfy the requiremenst of the pharmaceutical industry, drug control laboratories and drug regulatory bodies.
The D. Pharm. course was developed to satisfy the requirements of hospitals and medical stores.
However, prior to 1984, persons without any pharmacy educational qualifications were able to register their names as pharmacists the pharmacy council, as long as they had five years of experience in the compounding and dispensing of drugs in a hospital or a clinic.
However, section 32B provisions (related to displaced persons or repatriates) of the pharmacy act had been misused during 1980s and a large number of persons, without any recognized education or training, were reported to have registered their names as pharmacists (called non‐ diploma pharmacists).
In physical form, each Pharmacy/Medical Store should have a Diploma Pharmacist or a B Pharm Pharmacist onsite. But in reality, only a few pharmacists are onsite in pharmacies/medical stores. And most of the drug distribution work is done by the owner of the pharmacy.
A study conducted in 2005 found that almost 50% of pharmacies are operating without a pharmacist.
A majority of pharmacy owners, who are not pharmacists, hire pharmacists on a token/rent basis and as a result, pharmacists are never available to dispense medications.
Consumers and patients consider a visit to the medical store to purchase drugs in much same way they consider a visit to a grocery to buy food items. The educated people consider the retail pharmacist as a person who has acquired a drug licence to supply the medicines or a grocer who deals in medicines. They think anyone in our country can open a stationary shop and a medical store (i.e. pharmacy) also.
As they are trained at a critically insufficient scale, their large potential is being wasted and remain untapped. Since the number of medicines available to consumers and their complexity is increasing day by day, the pharmacists should look for steps beyond just compounding and dispensing. Though the community pharmacist’s role in public health (PH) has not well defined, they are certainly not new to PH. Albeit there is an increasing recognition of the contribution that community pharmacy can make to improve the PH, still there is a need to integrate pharmacy into the wider PH workforce.
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