Pharmacy in India

    Here is a review of health scenario in first few decades of the last century and development of profession of pharmacy in India and consequently of Pharmacy Council of India. And State Councils and challenges to be faced by these bodies in regulating the profession and steps needed to be taken to meet the situation in coming century.

1.0 Health Scenario during 1901-1930

Medical Education and Treatment Facilities :
In India, then most of the people were well under the poverty line and were undernourished. The prevalent diseases were small pox, malaria, T.B. Plague, cholera etc. and such other diseases and debilitating conditions like filarial, amoebiases. The systems of treatment for the diseases and ailment were the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of Medicine and the allopathic system, which was brought into India by Dutch, French, Portuguese and the British. A few medical colleges were established in major presidency towns with attached hospitals. Though the colleges were affiliated to various Universities, the general supervision was of Indian Medical Council.

For treatment, facilities were only available in bigger centers and rural people had to go to these places for treatment. Very few qualified dentists, nurses were available. The British also established small centers for production of small pox vaccine and for plague special centers at Haffkine Institute, Mumbai and King's Institute, madras were set-up. Pasteur institutions were set-up to manufacture Anti-rabbic vaccines.

1.2 Production, Sale and Distribution of Drugs :

But for few companies like Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Works Ltd., at Calcutta, M/s Alembic Chemical Works Co. Ltd., at Baroda and a few others and Govt. Medical Stores Depots at madras, Calcutta and Bombay, there was not much production activity in the country and majority of drugs were imported. In absence of any control over quality of drugs, adulteration I drugs was rampant in the country.

1.3 Medical Facilities :

Qualified Regd. Medical Practitioners dispensed medicines in their own dispensaries and this practice in still in vogue in India. Usually, suspensions, emulsions and ointments were dispensed with the help of 'compounders', who were semi-literate and even in hospitals, they were not well paid. However, to cater the need of prescriptions written but no dispensed by consulting doctors, some of the British owned pharmacies such as Spencer & Company at Madras, Madon & Co., Bombay and Whitehall pharmacy at Calcutta and kemp & Co., Bombay were known for their dispensing skills and services.

1.4 Drugs Enquiry Committee

In absence of any control over quality of drugs, there was large scale adult ration in the drugs and reached its height in and around 1926 with the gigantic quinine fraud and there was and uproar in the country. On 4th September 1928 lt. Col. H.A.J. Gidney, a nominated member of the Legislative Assembly, voiced concern over the menace of spurious, counterfeit and adultered drugs and dispensing by unqualified persons and suggested promulgation of a Food & Drug Act and pharmacy and poisons Act on British lines. The Government of India was sforced to appoint a committee called Drugs Enquiry Committee in 1930 to go through the entire matter and make recommendations for regulating the profession of pharmacy. The committee amongst others made the following three important recommendations.

  1. Regulation of import, manufacture, sale and distribution of drugs (Pharmaceuticals.)

  2. Regulation of advertisements of drugs.

  3. Regulation of profession and practice of Pharmacy.

The committee had recommended a comprehensive legislation covering all these aspects.
The Government of India, however felt that quality control of drugs was of paramount importance of the well being of the people and felt other recommendations could be implemented at a later date.

Having outlined in brief about the State Councils, let us look at some interesting figures about different aspects of the profession in Maharashtra, in a graphical form :


    The above figures give information as to how the profession has developed in the State during last half Century. Having obtained the information on how the profession has progressed, let us see how this was achieved and steps taken by the State Council to promote the profession of pharmacy in the State.

3.0 Pharmacy Education in Maharashtra
As stated above, there were no Pharmacy Education Institution in the
Country till then. Only Banaras Hindu University has established a degree course in pharmacy since 1932 under the able leadership of late Dr. Prof. M.L. Shroff. The other was the post-graduate B.Sc. (Technical.) Course in Pharm. Science at U.D.C.T. At Bombay. Apart from these institutions, there were no other colleges where a person could get education in Pharmacy in the country.

3.1    Bombay State Pharmacy Council
which was working in close collaboration with Indian Pharmaceutical Association, I.P.A. a national professional organisation found a way out. The Bombay State Branch of I.P.A. started a six months course known as practicing Pharmaceutical course in 1949 for those working n the profession but had no systematic training inn relevant subjects. Those coming out of PPI course were eligible for registration as Pharmacists under the Pharmacy Act. On demand from the profession, such centers were also started at Pune, Kolhapur, Nandurbar, Ahmedabad and Baroda etc. These efforts led to the starting of a Diploma course in Pharmacy College at Bombay and finally became full-fledged degree college named Bombay college of Pharmacy, in Mumbai. IPA Poona local branch had also started Diploma course in Pharmacy at Pune. It could not sustain financially, because of lack of financial support form Government and was finally takes over by Bharati Vidya Peeth (BVP) which has developed into a fine complete imparting Diploma and Degree education in Pharmacy. This was followed by other centers and now there are Diploma and Degree Pharmacy colleges are practically in every district of the state. Presently, there are 23 degree colleges and 63 Diploma colleges in the state.

3.2    Registration of otherwise qualified Pharmacists as Regd. Pharmacists under the Pharmacy Act. With approval of PCI. 

  1. Persons, who were approved as qualified persons under Drugs Rules, but forgot them to register.

  2. Graduate Pharmacists, whose institutions were not approved by PCI, when they graduated.

  3. Persons who had been approved as qualified persons under Drugs Rules in Aurangabad Division.

  4. Those Pharmacists who had completed the condensed course in Pharmacy in Govt. Hospitals.

With these measures, it was possible to bring within its fold, a large number of Pharmacists who otherwise would have been deprived of being classified as Registered Pharmacists.

3.2     Appointment of Pharmacy Inspectors
The process was initiated in 1981 and ultimately, the MSPC succeeded in
Appointing four Pharmacy Inspectors for different parts of the State.

3.3     Orientation Programmes for working Pharmacists
The MSPC, was the first Council in the country to organize Refresher
Training programmes for Retail / Hospital Pharmacists at various places in the state.
3.4     Honoring eminent professionals in the field of Retail / Hospital /
Educational field.

Such professionals are selected by a selection Committee and given mementoes at a special function every year since 1986. Top ranking D. Pharms from various colleges in the state are also honored annually.

3.5 Computerization of Office
This has been done for better service to the profession.

4.0 Challenges of the 21st Century
The profession is going to face newer challenges in this century and the
PCI and state councils must be prepared to face them and provide right solutions for overcoming them. This is especially so since the Pharmacists is not going to be only a seller or dispenser of drugs, but, is also going to play a vital role in health services of the country by patient counseling and community services to the society at large.

Some of the suggestions in this regard are briefly given below:

4.1 We may shout from rooftops that we are professionals, like
doctors, architects or lawyers, but we must also admit that the society still considers our retail or hospital pharmacists as traders and compounders. Therefore, we must launch a sustained stress relation programme to focus the role of the pharmacist as a vial link between a doctor and the patient and also to the society. Only words or speeches are not enough for creating this new image for a pharmacist. What is needed is action. This could be achieved by better interaction with various groups of the people, participation in their social programmes and also organising blood-donation and eye-donation programmes and such other social activities as well as counseling the patient. Both, PCI and State Councils should take up this activity on a priority basis.

4.2 Diploma in pharmacy courses should not be discontinued as
contemplated but they should be re-structured and should be given a new look, weeding out non-essential topics and giving more thrust on topics, which would serve the pharmacist well in future. There should be specialization after the first year level, where a student gets thorough grounding in basic subjects. Presently less than 1% of Degree holders join retail-hospital pharmacists.
4.3 There should be separate representation for hospital
Pharmacists and teachers in Diploma colleges, both, in Central and State Councils to make it more representative.

4.4 The pharmacy Act, 1948 requires that a prescription be
dispensed by a regd. Pharmacist only, whereas the Drugs and Cosmetics rules require that this activity could be carried out under the supervision of a Registered Pharmacist. This anomaly in the two legislations on the same requirement needs to be remedied immediately.

4.5 PCI & State councils should impress on government that the
owner of a retail pharmacy must be a registered pharmacist. A provision on these lines is necessary in the drugs and cosmetics rules. Such a provision existed in Goa before it formed a part of India.

4.6 Pharmacy Education, both at Diploma and Degree level
Should be treated as a separate professional qualification and should no be equated with other Engineering's qualifications, and should not be clubbed with AICTE. PCI should be the sole authority to decide on the syllabi and course-contents. The present arrangements give the profession of pharmacy and PCI a secondary role and position.

4.7    There should be more interaction between the central and state councils and all programmes workshops etc. sponsored by PCI should only be through the state councils. It is not proper that the PCI should sponsor such programmes in collaboration with other educational or professional institutions directly, since, a state council exists and is the right authority to get such programmes organized.

There could be many more suggestions, which I may not have been able
to cover, but, have tried to take a comprehensive view of the entire matter sot that a profession of the pharmacy gets a respectable position, not only in health services of the country but also in hearts of the people.


  • Souvenir published by M.S.P.C. in 1986

  • 50 years of I.P.A. "History of Indian Pharmaceutical Association" (1939-1989)