LAHORE: In quite a surprising move, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) has barred the pharmacists and physiotherapists from using “Doctor” prefix with their name and directed the provinces to get this decision implemented forthwith.

The move has triggered a controversy as the two professions are already on the decline, thanks to official neglect. The pharmacists and physiotherapists have aptly described the decision as shocking and disgusting, saying it is tantamount to disgracing the noble professions.

“It is a sheer violation of law which protects the Pharm-D graduates,” according to Pakistan Pharmacists Association spokesman Noor Mehar. He said the PMDC’s decision had drawn the flak of the qualified professionals as the Council had no jurisdiction to interfere in the affairs of the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP) which had granted this right to the Pharm-D (Doctor of Pharmacy) graduates.

“We are planning to launch a vigorous campaign to gather our colleagues at a platform from all the provinces to challenge the move,” he told Dawn.

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The PMDC’s July 27 notification issued to the provinces reads: “The executive committee of the PMDC in its meeting held on May 22 considered the matter of use of title ‘Doctor’ with their names by pharmacists and physiotherapists...

“...The PMDC has decided to issue directives to all the pharmacists and physiotherapists to stop writing ‘Doctor’ prefix with their names forthwith.” It also directed the provincial health authorities to pass on the directives to the pharmacists and physiotherapists to bar them from using “Doctor”.

Significantly, the development has come after the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP) took some decisions to elevate the profile and dignity of the pharmacists. Protecting them under a legal cover, the PCP, through a notification of March 31, 2015 had allowed the Pharm-D graduates to use “Doctor/Dr” as a prefix along with their names.

The notification reads: “Pharmacy Council of Pakistan, in its recent meeting, has resolved to allow the Pharm-D graduates for using the prefix of ‘Dr’ since they hold a degree which is titled as Doctor of Pharmacy.”

The PCP also asked the provincial pharmacy councils and the degree-awarding institutions to use the prefix with the names of graduates while issuing degrees and registration certificates. The PCP is an official regulatory body established in terms of the Pharmacy Act 1967 to regulate pharmacists, pharmacy support personnel and pharmacy premises in Pakistan.

After approval of the Pharm-D five-year curriculum by the Council, the HEC also asked the degree-awarding institutions to follow the same arrangements. The course was upgraded from four to five years in order to meet the international requirements for the recognition of the degree programme.

“We are proud to be a pharmacist. We love our profession. In what capacity the PMDC has issued directives to the pharmacists not to use doctor with their names when the issue is related to the PCP and the HEC,” a pharmacist blasted. “If a doctor is allowed to use Dr. with his name after five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) curriculum, what’s wrong with the five-year Pharm-D course,” he said while alleging that the PMDC wanted monopoly of the doctors.

Mr Mehar, a senior pharmacist, said the PMDC’s decision had no legal value as the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan was a legal body according to the Pharmacy Act 1967. He said the PCP had taken another decision according to which all the pharmacists working in any field of pharmacy -- hospital, industry, retail and wholesale outlets etc. -- would be paid a minimum salary equivalent to BS-17 in public sector.

He said some “elements” could not see pharmacists thrive and had started lobbying through the PMDC to let the profession down. “The pharmacists are preparing to knock on the door of courts to challenge the PMDC’s verdict,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2015

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