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Interview of Dr. Prof. B. Suresh : we have to improve our competency and knowledge


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"We cannot compare straight away with US or Europe and say that these should be community Pharmacy and they are lagging behind. I would say that Yes! we have to improve our services and role as Pharmacist in the community pharmacy that is more important and for that knowledge is important.

Interview of Prof. Dr. B. Suresh, President of Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) was taken on 9th March 2019 at National Pharmacist Convection, Guwahati.


What is the role of PCI in increasing value of pharmacists?
You are asking me about role of PCI in increasing the value of pharmacist. so we should understand it’s not the question of increasing the value of pharmacist, PCI is for the pharmacist. PCI act and the pharmacy act have come for the very purpose of the safe guard in the interest of the professional pharmacist and ensuring that the properly qualified persons and trained persons are only available for the pharmacist positions and providing lot such qualification in training should be for becoming a pharmacist so this is a very primary responsible for the pharmacy council. Pharmacy council continues to make its efforts to increase the scope of pharmacist in diverse settings as you all are aware earlier the pharmacist role was limited either for the diploma pharmacy to go to a drug store or to community pharmacists are in hospital pharmacy and the graduate pharmacists to go to the industry there were no other roles. To increase the visibility of the pharmacist and also to improve the role of the presence of pharmacist the doctor of pharmacist program, the clinical pharmacist program was introduced. So this itself creating a new dimension for the pharmacist where we say the pharmacist is the part of the health care team and here got surround with physician and other health professionals in managing the care for the patients. Similarly if you look at the new regulations, which we brought in for B.Pharm and M.Pharm that is to ensure that pharmacists are all uniformly trained across the country. And we have created national syllabus now which is more contemporary and required for the professionals. The next level if you look at we have brought pharmacy practice regulation where for the first time pharmacy profession is defined as a practicing profession that means pharmacist can practice the profession of pharmacy. And they can charge for services they are providing. So these are all steps taken by pharmacy council of India to put in your own words to increase value of pharmacists.  

When we talking about global level of the pharmacy profession so how community Pharmacist in India is lagging behind than USA, what are factor you think and we can rectify and how we can work as Pharmacist
See when we compare other countries, we have to also realize that what is our national situation. India has got population of 1.3 billion people and they have to have access to medicines. That means medical shop if you look at drug stores and community pharmacists require in large number. As I understand from the data from chemist and druggist association that there are somewhere around 8 lakh pharmacist in country. Even that is insufficient. So many areas are there where people have to walk very far distance to get medicine.  So we cannot compare straight away with US or Europe and say that these should be community Pharmacy and they are lagging behind. I would say that Yes! we have to improve our services and role as Pharmacist in the community pharmacy that is more important and for that knowledge is important. So initially when community pharmacist activity started, there were no pharmacists in the country. So Diploma Pharmacists were there and started working as community pharmacist. Now more and more graduate pharmacists are coming, they should enter the profession, they should become entrepreneurs and open their own pharmacies and try to provide profession service so then we will not lagging behind anywhere in rest of the world. So, this is my view.


Very important air is going on right now in our country about future of Pharm.D professionals because they are not getting enough jobs as we all aware. So, how we can cope up with that and we have to do for that
See I would like to say here that it is not question of getting enough jobs. There are jobs available, there are pharm.d students getting appointed and carrying out excellent work both in India and abroad. It is some of the feeling of some section is that these jobs should available in government sectors also. So that is main thing, they want government job as clinical pharmacist. Now when we look at government job as clinical pharmacist, we have to understand that we have to go in healthcare setting in government hospital to get those positions. The government cannot clear position in private hospitals and the position of such post is state subject. Now each state has to create and understand value of clinical pharmacist and create their positions. Like in the early days, pharmacists role was known because the pharmacist went and made a presentation and he showed his capabilities. Similarly, clinical pharmacists also have to go out and make their capabilities known. Merely telling that I have a degree and you should give me a job is not, I am going to convenience any government to create positions. What value you are going to bring to the clinical healthcare settings that we have to prove. Prove with data, prove with examples and government will definitely create (positions). Apart from this council is making continuous efforts to create awareness among the government and even government is creating such positions. Today the medical council of India has made a provision that every hospital should have clinical pharmacist and also NABH is asking for clinical Pharmacist in every accreditation of hospitals. So this is happening. So there are job opportunities. Even yesterday I got a message that one of the medical colleges has hired ten clinical pharmacists, so that they can support doctors in the hospital wards. They feel that doctors are not having enough human resource to support the patients so they hire clinical pharmacists. So this is the change happening. Some isolated institutes I don’t think will become bigger issues.


If I am not wrong in 2015, health minister himself announced in one event that Department of pharmaceuticals will going to be Ministry of Pharmaceuticals. So what are the hurdles because pharmaceutical field itself the biggest economy generator for the country.
See there are multiple issues in the pharma sectors; it is not just one entity. If you looks at IT sectors, ministry of IT could be created because it relates to IT and IT enables services, that’s all. Whereas if you look at pharma, it is in multiple positions. If you looking at healthcare then it is a health subject and healthcare interphase is required. If you are looking at manufacturing, again under drugs and cosmetic act, it is under the health ministry. If you look at sales and export, it is under commerce ministry. Then it comes to price control and APIs, it comes under ministry of chemicals and fertilizers. So like this multiple ministries are handing pharma as a sector. So bring all of them out of respective ministries and make it under one ministry, is going to be a big challenge for any government. It is not that they are not working, they working on modalities, how it will happen. Let us say, if pharmacists positions which are there in health ministry, they are going to remove and put it in pharma sector (ministry) then the interphase will take place with hospitals and doctors. If you are going to remove exports from commerce ministry and put it under ministry of pharmaceuticals, then how export policy will be designed for pharmaceuticals. So I think, we should not misunderstand the intention of government. They want to create ministry of pharmaceuticals. They imply is that they want to improve sector; not bring everything under one control. Respective things can happen in respective ministries; but different ministries are created just to see that boost is given to whole exercise. And I think that is happening.

But sir, When we compare it with AYUSH ministry, in very short period of time they did it. Because few years back if we see, AYUSH didn’t have anything around us. Because it was included in pharmaceuticals only. So how they can do it and why not pharmaceuticals ?
See you are not understanding again. It is not only manufacturing aspects. When you talk of ayush ministry they practice Indian medicine that means how ayurvedic doctors, homeopathy doctors, siddha doctors, unani doctors how they provide healthcare services to country. Manufacturing is one small part of it. It is not any major part of ayush. And the idea of bringing that ministry to see that how these healthcare professionals can spread across the country to meet the gap which is existing in providing healthcare delivery to the country. Modern medicines are not able to reach all the places. Can ayush doctors are able to provide this care wherever there is gap is existing, that was the expectation. That’s why this ministry was created. And there also it is fulfilling only limited objective that how ayush systems can be available as a healthcare delivery.


How industry level recruitments can be increased ?
See industry level recruitments are there. But we have to improve our competency and knowledge. So this is something every pharmacist will have to understand. There are jobs available; it is not that there are no jobs. But merely having degree alone, is not going to get you a job.
So recently I met an entrepreneur in Andhra Pradesh. So he has a big biotech company under his chairmanship. He said I can take tomorrow 200 pharmacists but are they willing to give commitment to work with me for three years? Because I want to train them in biotechnology area and make them work with me. They come in three months and go away, how can I give them job?  What type of are they willing to give? And what type of knowledge they have got with them?
So this is something we have to understand. Jobs are there but only for if you have knowledge, required skills, and your commitment to grow then sky is limit for jobs and progress in the country. But if you are merely having a degree that will not necessarily achieve the type of job which you want. You always feel, I don’t have right job, I don’t have right pay, I don’t have right position. Because if you are good, automatically you are not be talking about these.


And how PCI is working towards entrepreneurship for pharmacy professionals, especially for college students ?
Rightnow, honestly putting, we would like to say that now with uniform curriculum being brought across B.Pharm and M.Pharm curriculum coming to the country, there we have built up  project works; industry related trainings all these have become part of B.Pharm curriculum now. So, this is going to built up bridges between industry and institutions. Again I want to put responsibilities to institutions. There are some institutions which are able to get 100% positions for their master students for second year project in industry. There are so many institutions which do not even bother about the masters program students to do it. So it is important role institutions also have to play. PCI alone cannot play role. PCI  can build bridge but crossing bridge is on to students and the institutions that has to work. So, we are making sure that this is going to happen.


As world is heading towards artificial intelligence (AI), so how you see role of pharmacist in AI ?
Artificial intelligence is a tool, it is not a substitute. So pharmacists can definitely gain from this tool. In the sense let us say, if you have analytics of antibiotics prescription in a particular region and the probable effectiveness of such antibiotics, so you will get a straight away data that you are prescribing particular antibiotics but most of people are coming back with secondary relapse means sensitivity of antibiotics is not been verified and checked. But once you have that type of data, you know that this antibiotics will not able to benefit the patients. So we can with this project that you know whenever any prescription takes place from particular region. So AI can point out why do you want to get this antibiotics when it is resistant to most of populations. So this is just a simple example.
Similarly, if you look at industry, the amount of information available on adverse drugs reaction; no one knows about the pattern. So AI can definitely play role if any company want to bring new formulation. AI can definitely help, OK you are to bring new formulations, this is healtheconomics output of the field. So, are you going for right decision? So, this types of role can definitely AI can play (through pharmacists).

As you earlier mentioned (during conference addressing) about online system which will be implemented by PCI for lectures and all. So how it will be useful for pharmacists and how PCI planning to reach out colleges ?
Learning is a continuous process whether you are a student, whether you are a teacher or you are a professional in the field. When we create digital platform, it does not means only for students, it can even for teachers, it may be for pharmacists. All we have to do is what information he is looking for and if it is available he can get benefit from the information (from digital platform). As we shall evolve there will be more and more content which may be for different sectors. Let’s say if you are working pharmacist and you want to update knowledge on pharmacovigilance, So they can look at those topics, understand and undergo for a course and generate a certificate for themselves. So this type of initiatives will definitely useful. So digital platform is for everyone not only for the students.


But how PCI planning to record them ?
At initial stage, we shall ask volunteers who work and give us content. We shall try to harmonized format and we shall try to edit it to look uniform. We shall provide about 25 slides or 25 different fonts etc. So everything should look neat. So we are engaging some agencies to put those content in a particular format, size, font which is readable and acceptable. And keep on uploading after getting it and getting a certificate there is no plagiarism associated with that.


After this event how you see future of pharmacy in northeast areas?
Future of Pharmacy in this northeast region is still ripe. You have to exploit with full of potential. Because number one when there is such natural wealth around, even study of all herbal plants is a big task here which itself enormous. Infact, I am very happy to see some of poster presentation on the traditional medicinal practices. So one can definitely can look in to opportunities. But everybody wants to go to cities, everybody want to go to other places to work but they do not want to do what is available within. Similarly, just now I was speaking with director of health services, he was talking about the healthcare services are not able to reach remote places. So if that is the case, pharmacists can be bridge between doctor and patients. Even pharmacists can go in that remote areas and able to interact with physician and help the patients. So government will immediately hire such professionals which are required (here). So the idea is, they are not able to convince physicians to reach remote places’ so if we are ready to do it, tomorrow government will start rely on us more and more. So there are lot of opportunities here and again few young professionals can get together and start their own enterprises. Enterprises means it is not only manufacturing but it can be anything.