Best Schools: Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani Jadavpur University, Kolkata Banaras Hindu University, Banaras, Qualifications: 10+2 with Science background, PCB/PCM required, Our advice: A field for those with equal bent for chemistry, biology, research and development, Career Avenues: Pharma industries, product management, quality control, drug inspection, research and development
You may be surprised to know that pharmacy education in India took off as early as 1860 under the umbrella of Medical College, Madras. But it is widely regarded to have begun at Banaras Hindu University in 1932. As it is relatively young, the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has been working hard to raise the minimum qualification of registered pharmacists in the country to keep abreast of international standards. The International Pharmaceutical Federation takes core responsibility for developing pharmacy practice standards applicable to the community and hospital settings on a global level and instigating change. The World Health Organization (WHO) has given the green signal to adopt its recommendations.
The pharma industry in India is nearly a hundred years old. Today, the Indian market comprises over 25,000 manufacturing units and according to government statistics one-fifth of them makes bulk drugs. Career avenues in this sector are now looking up and professionals receive many more job openings, especially in multinational pharmaceutical companies. Government figures show that over 300 institutions in India impart diplomas to nearly 20,000 students every year and over 100 institutions offer degrees to more than 5,000 students. And this statistics appear to grow every year. An interest in life sciences is a prerequisite to enter this field.
Where to begin
A student can move into this discipline after 10+2. Candidates who possess 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry, Maths/Biology (PCM/PCB) are admitted to the 4-year bachelor's programme (Bachelor of Pharmacy or B.Pharm). The pharmacy degrees offered in India include bachelor's in pharmacy (B.Pharm, 4 years' duration), diploma in pharmacy (D Pharm, 2 years' duration) and master's in pharmacy (M. Pharm).
New courses introduced in the recent past, include industrial pharmacy, pharmaceutical biotechnology and pharmacy practice. A PhD in pharmacy is also offered by some institutions and usually requires a minimum of three years to complete after an M.Pharm. Pharm D, is a new 6-year degree that has been introduced in India. According to Dr. T.K. Ravi, Principal, College of Pharmacy, Sri Ramakrishna Institute of Paramedical Sciences, Coimbatore, this is recognized internationally, opening up more opportunities for people entering the field.
Passion for science required
To become a successful pharmacist a deep interest in science is necessary. Chemistry and biology are two subjects that need to be on your tips, along with an understanding of interlinks between these subjects and a clear understanding of the effects of drugs and their composition. Strong analytical abilities and academic foundations are necessary, along with hard work. As part of the job, you would require good communication skills to interact with patients, physicians etc. If you opt to be a retail pharmacist, you would need to develop business skills along with good product knowledge and constant upgrading in terms of new changes in the field.
The growth in science and technology, improved understanding of diseases, their causes and possible remedies, have made Pharmacy a field full of potential and challenges. Prof. H.G. Shivakumar, Head of JSS College of Pharmacy, Mysore feels that people are becoming more aware of the role of pharmacists, and do not treat them just as people who give you medicines at a chemist shop. Pharmacy has everything to do with drugs - right from their origin, preparation, effects and side effects, dispensing and laws concerning medicines.
The Pharma syllabus
Most of the universities that offer B.Pharm in India have a similar curriculum though PCI has been working towards improving the existing scenario. There have been suggestions to change the syllabus as the major thrust so far was on the industrial aspect of pharmacy and other aspects such as community pharmacy and health care were clearly omitted. However, according to Dr. T.K. Ravi this is an area that will surely grow in the next few years, especially in terms of healthcare and regulatory efforts at the global level.
Before you enter this field, remember that some institutions conduct their own entrance exams in order to pursue B.Pharm courses so that you are not caught off guard on eligibility and timing. Entrance exams for the admissions to pharmacy courses are usually at state level. Institutions like IITs and some others accept the scores of entrance exams such as AIEEE for degree courses and GATE for postgraduate course.
- Industries: Work involves formulation as well as production of medicines
- Stores: Work in pharmacy stores in hospitals, wholesale or retail outlets
- Product Management : After an MBA, work in the management team
- Quality Controller : Involves checking if manufacturing of medicines conform to set standards
- Drug Inspector : Keep a check whether manufacturing units adhere to government regulations
- Medical Representatives : Interact with doctors and sell medicines
- Academics : In educational institutions
- R&D : In research institutes, work involves development of new medicines
Pharmacists with a B.Pharm, on the other hand, join industries in terms of production, quality control and marketing. After gaining 18 months of work experience, a person is recognized as qualified in drugs manufacturing. Pharmacists with a B.Pharm can also be appointed to drug regulatory agencies by the state or central government. M.Pharm holders can join industries, academia and research and development as well. Isha Marwah, campus relations at Dr. Reddy's in Hyderabad said that they look for graduates to join R&D. Recruitment into the company is based on a written test and group process activity.
Pharmacy students easily find employment in hospitals, industry and research labs. In hospitals, private and government, their job entails procurement and stocking, preparation and dispensing of drugs and health accessories. They keep an eye on the use, composition and effect of drugs and are responsible for advising the medical staff on the selection and the side effects of various medicines. In case of pharmaceutical industries, pharmacists are involved in the formulation and manufacture of drugs. Medical drugs are manufactured on the basis of the research done by the pharmacists. Another entry point is documentation which involves recording the details of drugs, an important segment since any investigation into a drug goes back to its initial documentation.
Freshers with B.Pharm are taken as trainees where the average salary is about Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000. Dr. Ravi stated that this is just the beginning, after one year of experience professionals can draw higher salaries. It is a field that encourages usage of creative ideas, is very challenging and the B.Pharm course helps a student zero in on specializations of various kinds. Some of the upcoming fields include quality control departments, formulation development, regulatory affairs, clinical research and patient-oriented pharmacy practice.
Those with a D.Pharm find opportunities as pharmacists in hospitals or community pharmacies. The salaries offered are mostly lower than what nurses and diploma level engineers earn. Pharmacists who opt to work at chemist stores have been known to be exploited by owners and do not receive adequate pay. Going by the recent trend one can opt to be an entrepreneur and open a state-of-the-art pharmacy with an investment of 5 to 6
The bodies involved
Pharmacy education in India is controlled by the Pharmacy Act and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the PCI is responsible for prescription, regulation and maintenance of minimum educational standards for the training of pharmacists in a uniformed manner. PCI decides the course curriculum and minimum qualifications required for registration at the D.Pharm level. B.Pharm courses also require approval from PCI for registration but postgraduate programmes do not come under the umbrella of PCI. AICTE approval is mandatory for pharmacy education programmes at all levels, so check out on this when choosing an institute.
Points to remember
One needs to be registered as a pharmacist in India in order to practice hospital and community pharmacy. The Pharmacy Act stipulates that only registered pharmacists can dispense medicines prescribed by registered medical practitioners, a fact that many people buying medicines are unaware of. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act requires registered pharmacists for wholesale and retail sales of drugs. The Act also decides minimum space and equipment required to run a pharmacy.
One does not require registration to work in other areas such as the pharmaceutical industry. Possessing a B.Pharm degree from a recognized university usually suffices unless you want to specialize and develop new drugs. There is an ongoing debate that PCI needs to take initiatives to start dialogues with professional bodies such as the Indian Pharmaceutical Association and the Indian Hospital Pharmacists Association to improve pharmacy practice. Let's hope that more qualified and experienced individuals enter this field so that the Indian pharmaceutical sector gets global status.