Minimum qualification of dispensing pharmacists should be upgraded if they are empowered to substitute prescriptions: J Jayseelan

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The scientific standard and educational qualification of the dispensing pharmacists in the hospital and community pharmacies need to be upgraded and streamlined if the government wants to empower them to substitute the prescriptions for mandatory dispensing of generic medicines.

“Only qualified pharmacists, either degree holders or Pharm D graduates, are eligible to substitute a prescription for generics, so they should handle the pharmacies everywhere,” said J Jayseelan, secretary of the Tamil Nadu branch of Indian Pharmaceutical Association.

Currently, majority of the pharmacists in the medical stores are diploma holders. But, they are only technical persons, their knowledge about drugs and their contents are very poor. So, the government should bring a law by amending the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to make the minimum qualification of a dispensing pharmacist in a pharmacy is B. Pharm, the four year degree course.

“Only a graduate in pharmacy knows all the pharmacological names of medicines and their various uses. If a prescription has to be changed for another version, it should go through the hands of a well-qualified pharmacist. Minimum there should be degree holders to substitute a generic for a brand advised by a doctor. In foreign countries, the doctors prescribe only in the chemical names of medicines and Pharm D graduates are handling the pharmacies. In our country, the availability of Pharm D graduates is very poor, so graduates can be appointed in place,” he said.

As far as IPA is concerned, we welcome the move of the government to empower the pharmacists for change of substitution of prescriptions. But, we will oppose if it is done by a non-pharmacist medical shop owner. If the plan of the Central government is to be succeeded, qualified pharmacists should handle the dispensary, he added.

When sought his response as an industry leader, Jayaseelan commented that there should be a law for the country in the case of prescription of brands that patented drugs could be prescribed only when there was non-availability of their generic versions. The doctors in India prefer to prescribe only the latest version of medicines which are patented. Hence, high price is imposed on the patients. Most of the Indian manufacturing companies are manufacturing branded generics only, which are affordable to all. So, awareness should be given to all the prescribers to write only affordable drugs and avoid the brands of multinational companies.

He further said, when essential drugs are available in the market and there is no shortage of them, the national drug regulator DCGI should not give approval for new drugs to be manufactured. Once a new drug is brought to the market, its price will be high. Approval can be given only if there is necessity.

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