Need to recognize Pharmacy sector in J&K

Rafi Malik
Pharmacists are health professionals who specialize in the use of medicines, as they undergo university graduate-level education to understand the biochemical mechanisms and pharmacological actions of drugs, drug uses, therapeutic roles, side effects, potential drug interactions, and monitoring parameters.
This year’s theme of World Pharmacist Day is
“Pharmacy: Always trusted for your health”
World pharmacist day is celebrated on 25th September wholeheartedly by the Pharmacists across the world. The world pharmacist day reminds the world to pay tribute to all those pharmacists who are rendering services with kindness and empathy.
The pharmacists are supporting the medical system with much kindness and tenderness. During the time of the pandemic, pharmacists have played a key role in supporting health care.
Pharmacists are taking on expanded roles and are increasingly being recognized as the medication management experts of the health care team including clinical services, reviewing medications for safety and efficacy, and providing drug information. Pharmacists, therefore, are the experts on drug therapy and are the primary health professionals who optimize medication use to provide patients with positive health outcomes.
Over the past few decades, the role of Pharmacist have changed from compounding of medicines towards a more inclusive focus on patient care. The concept of the 7-star pharmacist, introduced by WHO and taken up by FIP in 2000 in its policy statement on Good Pharmacy Practice, sees the pharmacist as a caregiver, communicator, decision-maker, teacher, life-long learner, leader and manager.
While seeking medical help, people think of a doctor or a nurse or a medical assistant, but seldom does a pharmacist come to mind probably because either under qualified Medical Assistants or matriculates are managing the affairs of Pharmacy services be it retails or Hospitals. In J&K getting a Pharmacy registration is not a big deal, anybody can get a license to sell medicines irrespective of his educational and technical background. Amidst all the mess prevailing in J&K, people holding degrees in Pharmacy are jobless and have been left in lurch to fend for themselves. All this needs correction by introducing professional services of Clinical Pharmacy along with a novel concept of “Pharmaceutical Care”.
Pharmaceutical Care is a patient-centered, outcome-oriented pharmacy practice that requires the qualified Pharmacist to work in concert with the patient and the patient’s other healthcare providers to promote health, to prevent disease and to make sure that drug therapy regimens are safe and effective. Professional Clinical Pharmacy services offered by trained personnel holding graduate and post-graduate degrees in Pharmaceutical Sciences can help a great deal in identifying potential and actual drug-related problems; addressing needs and resolving actual drug related problems; preventing potential drug-related problems and optimizing patient therapy outcomes. It is a practice in which the pharmacy practitioner assures that all of a patient’s drug therapy is used appropriately for each medical condition; the most effective drug therapy available is used; the safest drug therapy possible is used, and the patient is able and willing to take the medication as intended. Patients in our part of the globe have not been able to avail such professional pharmaceutical care services so far as a result of which there is large scale dissatisfaction and disillusionment among them since they largely remain uninformed about various lab investigations conducted upon them and about the necessity for various drug therapies prescribed. Overall goal of professional Clinical Pharmacy services is to optimize the therapeutic outcome management and decrease the burden of five D’s viz, death, disease, disability, discomfort and dissatisfaction among patients. Clinical, economic and humanistic outcomes will also shift towards the positive side as a result of these integrated and seamless healthcare services rendered by a trained pharmacy practitioner.
However the involvement of qualified pharmacists in J&K in this regard has remained abysmally low, contrary to trends in other Indian states and developed countries. Ever since the reorganization of State in UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh, the central laws have replaced the erstwhile State Laws; some of which being archaic and outmoded with further distortions caused by politico-bureaucratic manoeuvres. One such unhealthy practice is related to enrolment of Medical Assistants as Pharmacists under the State Pharmacy Act of 1956. Medical Assistants are healthcare professionals trained for job requirements of assisting doctors as general duty assistants for medical and surgical procedures such minor surgical procedures, dressings, giving injections, applying plasters etc in the same manner as other health care assistants such as Ophthalmic Assistants, Medical Laboratory Assistants, Sanitary Asstt, OT Assistants are trained to perform specific clinical jobs. Accordingly, Medical Assistant health care professionals happen to be in a cadre different from Pharmacist category in the health care delivery system in terms of training and job requirements with separate provision of posts for the two categories in Government service.
In Government sector too, pharmacies within hospitals, primary health centres and sub-centres are manned by Medical Assistants who have not undergone any formal training as required under norms, specifically in pharmacy. We don’t have any positions available for pharmacy graduates and post-graduates at any level in our government sector. In fact their applications are not accepted for Junior Pharmacist posts advertised by the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare on the pretext of being ‘over-qualified’ for the job. Consequently the services of qualified pharmacists remain completely unutilized in the UT, depriving patients of precious information about the use of drugs. In order to keep pace with fast changing times and global trends, trained and qualified pharmacy practitioners should be a part and parcel of the medical team during ward rounds and their assistance must be sought in prescribing best possible drug therapy to the patients. Every major hospital in our state needs to have a full-fledged Department of Pharmacy Practice with adequate infrastructure, manpower, equipments and funding.
We have placed tens of representation with different officials at H&ME seeking amendments and corrections in the existing policies for the welfare of public health, but alas as of date no amendments were made to streamline the Pharmacy services in J&K. even after implementation of CPA 1948.
The question arises that why the healthcare system in Jammu and Kashmir is reluctant to incorporate professional pharmacy services? Why the patients in this part of the globe are left at the mercy of underqualified and unqualified persons? This system has given birth to many problems, like development of antimicrobial resistance due to irrational use of antimicrobial agents, growing concerns of kidney diseases due to indiscriminate use of painkillers, rise of counterfeit medicines, illegal sale of drugs with abuse potential, indiscriminate use of steroids and other narrow therapeutic drugs that put the lives of patients at risk.
(The author is General Secretary J&K Pharmacy Graduates Association)