THE Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP) is the regulatory body of pharmacists and pharmacy profession established under the Pharmacy Act of 1967. It is meant for protecting, promoting and maintaining the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public who use pharmaceutical services in Pakistan.

The PCP is reconstituted every three years and is headed by the federal director-general of health under the ministry of national health services and regulations and coordination, Islamabad.

The PCP also accredits pharmacy schools across the country to ensure that the standard of studies is good enough. Any new pharmacy institute starting a five-year PharmD degree programme leading to professional registration as pharmacist is bound to get a no-objection certificate from the PCP before initiating the admission process.

They also need to get accreditation by fulfilling all the requirements of the PCP and inviting the inspection team for periodic evaluation.

When all this is done, a summary is then forwarded to the prime minister and then approved by federal cabinet for the issuance of a relevant gazette notification. Only then their graduates are eligible to apply for licence in their respective provincial council under the law. Any hindrance or delay during any of the steps mentioned above causes loss of time and opportunities for hundreds of graduates. And, unfortunately, this happens often.

There is neither a deadline for institutions to get accreditation nor do they face any issue if they remain unaccredited for years. They get the NOC and keep admitting new students on its basis. But as the problem lingers on, graduates and their families are trapped in a vicious cycle.

After spending loads of money on their education, they are left with no choice, but to move a court or approach the relevant authorities, and both these acts call for another investment of time and money.

A bad precedent is already set, and this has become a common practice now among businessmen starting new pharmacy schools to save their pockets. For instance, there are many such institutes which I need not mention as there is a long list and every other institution has its own version of explanations.

But this needs to be stopped immediately by the authorities. Whatever the reason, students must not suffer. Instead, the real culprits need to be identified and punished.

It is time the PCP fixed all the fault lines that have been created since 1967. It must hold such institutions accountable for their malpractice and force them to get accreditation before their graduates join the field so that they can get what they and their families paid and waited for years.

Many graduates are waiting for the prime minster to approve the accreditation of their respective institutions for gazette notification. I urge the government to take up these issues on a priority basis. Also, the Pharmacy Act needs amendments as an act promulgated in 1967 can never regulate the practices of rapidly changing healthcare world in 2021.

Dr Waleed Ahmad
Lahore

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2021

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