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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014
The changing role of pharmacists
Dharampal Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 20, 2014
First Published: 14:27 IST(20/8/2014)
Last Updated: 14:46 IST(20/8/2014)

The practice of compounding and dispensing drugs and medicines, or pharmacy, has been part of all ancient civilisations like Indus, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Japanese. The pharmacist was always associated with extensive knowledge of medicinal plants, metals, poisons. He used to prepare medicines in his apothecary using mortar and pestle. In the social hierarchy, he was highly respected.

The modern day student of pharmacy has moved on from traditional roles and is now qualified to provide critical inputs to various fields — clinical services, reviewing medications for safety and efficacy, providing drug information, manufacturing, product development, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, teaching etc. The pharmacy curriculum aims to prepare professionals to become experts on drug therapy and trains them to optimise the use of medication for the benefit of patients.

Career options

After completing senior secondary in science streams, those interested in a career in pharmacy, can either enroll for a two-year diploma in pharmacy or a four-year bachelor’s in pharmacy. Both courses are offered at many institutes across the country. Diploma holders can opt for roles in the retail sector or that of a pharmacist in government or private hospitals. They can also choose to pursue their bachelor’s degree through lateral admission to the second year of BPharm. Pharmacy graduates can also explore roles such as manufacturing or analytical chemist in government-owned or private-owned production houses, drug inspector, drug analyst or assistant professor in a pharmacy institute.
  
For students who want to undertake specialisation courses, there are several options for a postgraduate degree such as master’s in pharmacy (MPharm, MS, MSc), or master’s in business administration (MBA). Emerging courses such as PharmD (integrated five-year course) aim to groom candidates into researchers and healthcare providers in a clinical set-up.

Candidates with postgraduate courses in pharmacy are in great demand in the industry and are offered good positions in research and development, teaching etc. Often, students and professionals undertake short-term postgraduate diploma courses in regulatory affairs, intellectual property rights, pharmacovigilance etc to gain an edge over the competition and are hired at managerial levels by various clinical research organisations, knowledge process outsourcing, business process outsourcing, regulatory process outsourcing and other multinational pharmaceutical houses.

Those keen on academics find openings in pharmacy and medical colleges. Futher, students with a doctorate in pharmacy (PhD) are much sought-after in the fields of research and teaching in government and private sector. The country’s top academic institutions that are conducting these courses include:
* Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, New Delhi
* National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali
* IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
* Panjab University, Chandigarh
* Jadavpur University, Kolkata

The author is director, Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research (DIPSAR)

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