6-month course to certify unlicensed pharmacists is a bitter pill for Maharashtra

Updated: 27 December, 2016 09:24 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty |

Pharmacists argue that it’s not fair to those who studied for four years to get the same licence, and claim this could also endanger lives

Representation pic
Representation pic

A proposal to introduce a six-month course for unqualified employees working at medical stores has proved to be a bitter pill to swallow for pharmacists in Maharashtra, who argue that it’s not fair to those who studied for four years to get their licence and could also endanger patients’ lives. The Maharashtra Pharmacists Association has also sent a letter of disapproval to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, every medical shop must have at least one qualified pharmacist to obtain a licence to sell medicines. These pharmacists get the necessary qualification after a four-year course or a one-year diploma in pharmacy. During the course, they are taught subjects like pharmaceutics, pharmacology pathophysiology, and community pharmacy.

But now, the government is planning to introduce a refresher course to certify unqualified employees who have a minimum of five years of experience working in medical shops. Pharmacists claim that it will lead to mushrooming of ‘un-qualified pharmacists’ who can put patients’ lives at risk. Also, it will affect employment opportunities for the thousands of students who graduate from pharmacy colleges every year.

“What is the point of studying for four years to become a pharmacist if they can get a licence without even fulfilling the criteria? Many of the workers in medical shops haven’t even graduated,” said Vijay P Patil, president of Maharashtra State Pharmacy Council.

Maharashtra Pharmacists Association wrote to the Drugs Controller General of India, New Delhi this month, stating: “One cannot rule out the possibility of endangering lives of public due to errors by these so called pharmacists. Already our country is facing problems like menace of antibiotics and would be diabetic capital of the world…this move from ministry can aggravate these issues.”

The association has also raised objections against the president of the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), Jagannath Shinde, who is allegedly behind the proposal. Shinde, however, claims that he has merely asked the government to provide an alternative source of income to the thousands of employees who will lose their jobs because they do not have the right qualifications.

State of education
States like Uttar Pradesh, in particular, have many medical stores that function without qualified employees and are at the risk of losing their licence. The proposal to introduce the six-month course would protect these pharmacies and the livelihoods of the employees. Shinde explained, “In UP and Bihar, DCGI had issued licenses to medical shops improperly. Now that everything has come online, they will rectify this. Being the head of an association that oversees 7 lakh medical shops across India, I have raised the issue that medical shop workers who have worked for decades need to be given an alternative source of income. But I haven’t asked for any amendment in rules that will affect pharmacists in Maharashtra,” said Shinde.

On the other hand, experts here argue that any such amendment will apply across all states and will create chaos in Maharashtra, which has plenty of qualified pharmacists already.

If the proposal is implemented, more than 2 lakh pharmacy graduates could obe out of jobs in Maharashtra, including 50,000 in Mumbai alone.

First Published: 27 December, 2016 09:25 IST

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