The pharmaceutical industry is fast growing. A profession as dynamic and versatile as this has proven to be quite exciting due the array of options available within this field. With the rapid advancements happening in the health sector, a sea of opportunities has opened up for pharmacy professionals. However, the general public doesn’t see the role and contribution of a pharmacist. This profession is often misunderstood and not given due recognition. It is often misunderstood that the role of a pharmacist is limited to buying and selling of medicines. In this article we make an attempt to highlight the role of a pharmacist in the healthcare sector.
History of Pharmacy
Pharmacy has perhaps existed for as long as civilization has. The term comes from the Greek word for drug – ‘Pharmakon’. It is believed that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used to make (or at least supervise the making of) his own medicines. Pharmacy was historically also known as Apothecary, a person who prepares and dispenses medicines- a role that is now served by a pharmacist. The earliest known apothecary shops were found to be in Baghdad and slowly spread to other parts of the world. As the formulation of medicines became more complicated, the field of pharmacy was separated from the field of medicine. There was a need for this field to have more specialized knowledge and skill.
Areas where Pharmacists are Employed in
Pharmacists are employed in various sectors within and outside India. Broadly, three areas can be identified where pharmacy graduates are employed in:
- Industrial Settings: This sector mostly remains behind the screen and yet performs the mammoth task of production and distribution of drugs. The Indian pharma industry is the second largest Producer and distributor of generic medicine in the world. It shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the affordability and availability of essential drugs to the vast population of India and about 40% of the population of the U.S. among other countries. It provides jobs for millions of people in the country and requires so much more manpower to keep up with the growth of the industry. Pharmacists perform various roles in the manufacturing industry starting from Research and development, production and manufacturing, packaging, quality check and assurances, sales, regulation etc.
- Practice Settings:This sector is the one that is mostly visible. They have the highest contact with patients and physicians. They form a crucial link in the healthcare team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists, centred on patient welfare. Ever since the focus of the pharmacy practice has shifted from being ‘product focused’ to ‘patient focused’ especially in developed countries, pharmacists are playing an increasingly important role in assuring that medicines supplied are safe and effective on the patient. Pharmacists pass along relevant information to the patient and are constantly involved in patient education. They are working in collaboration with doctors to ensure the benefit of patients from a rational-evidence based medicine, with enough follow-up to assure patient care. Thus, this role is now being identified as Pharmaceutical care instead to ward off the notion that pharmacists are just dispensers of medicine. Against the backdrop of the ongoing profound changes in the healthcare systems, a paradigm shift is taking place and pharmacists are realising their true potential.
- Other Settings: Apart from being in the manufacturing or healthcare sector, there are other places where pharmacists have found jobs. These are mainly in the field of academics, regulatory offices of the government and involved in clinical research. In academics, colleges that offer pharmacy courses are always looking for skilled and talented teachers to recruit. Apart from teaching students, they also carry out continuous updating of the curriculum and research work and keep abreast with the pharmaceutical world. They can also climb up the academic ladder if they pursue a Ph.D. The Central Drugs Standard Drug Control Organization, the apex body in India for Drug control and each state has its own drug control agency. Pharmacists have been involved with these agencies for regulating various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry and supply of it. The task is to ensure that the materials available in the market are regulated to ensure its safety and efficiency. This agency is also responsible for giving approvals for clinical trials and manufacturing units and pharmacists in these roles have a lot of input. Clinical research organizationsalso offer ample job opportunities. A lot of multinational companies have set up their base in India and have tested the potential that India has. Whether CROs exist independently or as a segment of a large company, they undertake major researches that are being heavily funded. CROs are always on the lookout for a highly skilled workforce.
With such varied career options and possibilities, top pharmacy colleges in Karnataka and all over the country have amped up their courses to equip the students to meet the demands of the world. With better scope for research and multidisciplinary studies, the field of pharmacy is expected to rise much higher in the future.