Urgent Steps must be taken to stop the Pharmacy Sector from Dying!

Urgent Steps must be taken to stop the Pharmacy Sector from Dying!
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By Azhar Imtiyaz

We, the State Pharmacy graduates, are filing this plea in reference to the ineffective, lack of awareness and lack recognition to this vital part of health care system in Jammu and Kashmir. B Pharma, a 4 year professional course after 10+2, has students that are the cream of the society with excellent and exceptional educational background. The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmi, is the only institution in Jammu and Kashmir which offers the graduate-level programme in Pharmaceutical Sciences since the past thirty years. In 2009, it started post-graduate programmes in five different specializations of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Students have so far cleared national level examinations like GPAT/GATE/UGC-NET/CSIR-JRF, but the lack of recognition and merely any scope of opportunity in the state have led to grievous concern and mental challenges among them
A lot has already been written and said about the lack of recognition and to meet the genuine demands of the Pharmacy students. Over the past few years, an ever-increasing concern is being witnessed among the masses in regard to progressively deteriorating quality of drugs and related services. Among a host of social, political, economic, legal and administrative factors that are responsible for the prevailing scenario, one big factor is the inadequacy of skilled manpower available with the Drug and Food Control Organization, J&K in the shape of Drug Inspectors.
The need of the hour is that the administration recognize() the role of pharmacy graduates well in time and creates an adequate number of vacancies for them in all primary, secondary and tertiary care hospitals of the state. As of now, our pharmacy graduates are not even able to apply for any position of a pharmacist advertised by the administration because essential qualification for the same is the Medical Assistant Diploma. The applications of our graduates are not even accepted by the officials on the pretext that they are over-qualified for the post. This is a paradox that needs to be addressed.
If we talk about the Junior Pharmacist posts in J&K, the minimum qualification for the same should be D. Pharma or B. Pharma, but ironically it includes medical assistants and surgical assistants. Also, the syllabus for qualifying the exam is far from the scope of Pharmacy. It includes syllabus from medical and surgical assistant fields which doesn’t again serve any purpose to a pharmacy student. Despite all these limitations, students do qualify these exams, but the committee set for interview dismiss their appointment on grounds that the vacancy is not suitable for them. The point to note here is that if students from pharmacy background with exceptional knowledge of health care system can’t be recruited for the Junior Pharmacist post, then why advertise posts in the first place? If Pharmacy has no scope in the state then why befool students by having a government run institution in the state?
We, hereby are listing selected JKSSB Posts that actually pertain to B.Pharm, but have been made available to unrelated streams -JKSSB Posts Min. Qualification as per JKSSB Desirable Qualification
Health (Drug Control) laboratory technician. B. Sc with Chemistry B. Pharm/ M. Pharm;
Health Educator (Health of Medical Education Department) Graduate B. Pharm/ M. Pharm;
Assistant Public Analyst (Food and Drug Department) Chemical Analyst. B.Sc & M.Sc B. Pharm/ M. Pharm;
Jr. Pharmacist 10+2/Medical Assistant/D.Pharm B. Pharm/ M. Pharm;
Extension Educator (Health and Medical Education Department.) Graduation B. Pharm/ M. Pharm;
Health and family welfare assistant 10+2/Medical Assistant/D.Pharm B. Pharm/ M. Pharm.
If the government is not able to give suitable opportunities to pharmacy graduates to utilize their expertise, offer their services to the patients and not able to chalk out their clear-cut role in patient care, then the government is failing in its duties and responsibilities towards society. Every major hospital in our state needs to have a full-fledged Department of Pharmacy with adequate infrastructure, manpower, equipment, and funding but unfortunately, none of our major hospitals have taken a leap towards establishing Clinical pharmacy practice departments in spite of being a compulsory MCI norm. Since this requirement is already well stipulated in the approved drug policy of our state, the government needs to start working in that direction in its right earnest. Drug selection, quantification, procurement, storage, distribution and dispensing along with necessary counselling, monitoring, and drug information services to the patients is a highly sophisticated and professional activity that can only be performed by skilled, well-trained and qualified professionals like pharmacy graduates. However, in all major and minor hospitals of the state, there are either unqualified (matriculates) or under-qualified (Medical Assistants) people managing these affairs leading to frequent failures of the system besides dissatisfaction among patients. Therefore, in tune with Drug Policy provisions, the state government must create an adequate number of vacancies for pharmacy graduates in all hospitals of the state. This is highly essential for an efficient supply chain management and scientific medicines management within government hospitals.
As per the official figures available with the Health department, there are approximately 10000 licensed retail and wholesale drug dealers registered in the state of J&K with only 72 posts of Drug Inspectors to monitor and inspect them, thus putting a burden of around approximately 400 sale premises on each drug inspector whereas internationally accepted norms require one drug inspector for every 100 drug sale outlets. It is worth mentioning that this figure of 10000 outlets does not include first aid centres, primary health centres, allopathic dispensaries, sub-district and district hospitals that exist in each district of the state in addition to blood banks, manufacturing establishments and unauthorized drug stores. Thus, the workforce currently available with Drugs Control Department is not sufficient enough to fully cater to the actual field requirements.
At present, drugs falling under alternative systems of medicine including Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy are not regulated by any legal framework so far as their sale, storage or distribution is concerned. Though provisions relating to these types of drugs have been outlined in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules there under, these provisions have not been enforced unlike other provisions relating to drugs belonging to an allopathic system of medicine. Therefore, fresh posts of drug inspectors at block level should be recruited by the administration, new appointees can be suitably empowered to inspect and monitor drug stores dealing with alternative systems of medicine in their respective blocks. This will efficiently absorb the pharmacy graduates and unemployment will be addressed. Similarly, diagnostic laboratories exist in every nook and corner of the state without any license or proper registration because of non-implementation of the Clinical Establishments Act in the state. Appointments of drug inspectors at block level can pave way for the regular inspection, checking and statutory control of these laboratories too provided relevant powers and authority is vested unto them.
In this regard, we had meetings with Minister and Director of Health, they assured of complete support from their end. We handed them the case report that was earlier submitted in 2004 in regard to updating the syllabus and vacancies for pharmacy graduates. The file was later held up at the old secretariat from where it was never tracked till 2013. In 2013, it was retraced; fresh approval was established but again lost to gimmicks of government at the old secretariat. In this regard, representation for same was given by Dr. Geer M. Ishaq on behalf of the entire Pharmacy fraternity to the Minister and Director of Health in the recent meeting at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, Srinagar.
In conclusion, appropriate measures need to be taken to address the plea of pharmacy graduates without further jeopardizing their careers. There is an urgent need to address the genuine demands of the pharmacy graduates in the state and create job opportunities that adequately address our grievances.

—The author can be reached at: imtiyazazhar@gmail.com

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