The Union ministry of health and family welfare has invited public input on the proposed National Pharmacy Commission Bill 2023. The Bill is a significant step towards establishing the National Pharmacy Commission and repealing the Pharmacy Act, 1948. The ministry has prepared a draft legislation, now available on its website. It is seeking comments from the public and stakeholders on this proposed legislation to facilitate inclusive policy making.
The Bill signifies a potential paradigm shift in the role of pharmacists in India’s primary health care system. It offers an opportunity to infuse a public health perspective into pharmacy practice, recognising pharmacists’ potential for a more significant role in primary healthcare. However, the current draft of the Bill primarily frames the pharmacy commission as an administrative entity, lacking a clear and articulated vision and mission for its functioning.
The National Pharmacy Commission Bill
One of the notable provisions in the Bill is the establishment of a national online pharmacy register. The Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board is tasked with maintaining the National Pharmacy Register (NPR), which will include comprehensive information about pharmacy professionals, such as names, addresses, and qualifications, along with other details as determined by regulations.
The Bill addresses the international aspect of pharmacy education. It includes provisions for the recognition of pharmacy qualifications granted by institutions outside India. This process involves applications from foreign authorities to the Commission, followed by necessary verifications, after which the Commission may grant or refuse recognition. This global approach underscores the Bill’s commitment to ensuring high standards in pharmacy practice in India.
The Bill’s scope extends to the broader role of pharmacy in primary healthcare, a subject of interest and importance to pharmacists, public health professionals, policymakers, and the public. Pharmacy’s crucial role in primary healthcare lies in providing integrated, accessible, and evidence-informed services. These services address medication needs, promote wellness and prevention, and involve collaboration with other healthcare providers.
Pharmacy in primary healthcare
Pharmacy in primary healthcare is dynamic and evolving, responding to changes in society, health system demands, and professional expectations. Global megatrends, such as ageing populations, epidemiological transitions, and increased digital connectivity, significantly influence the field. An efficient, patient-centered primary healthcare system envisions pharmacists playing essential roles at its forefront, emphasising patient and public engagement and evidence-based practice.
The future of global healthcare leans towards patient- and public-centered services delivered by multidisciplinary collaborative healthcare teams. These teams aim to promote health and wellness through engagement and evidence-based practices. Developing and implementing health services and training health professionals to focus on diseases is the first step. This foundation is crucial for ensuring that people receive the best tailored and targeted, evidence-based healthcare, regardless of the setting and the healthcare professionals involved.
Most healthcare, including preventive healthcare, is provided in primary care settings, where various professionals collaborate to deliver optimal patient- and public-centered health services. Here, the role of pharmacists becomes increasingly significant.
The Bill also emphasises the role of pharmacists in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG3 (good health and well-being) and SDG17 (partnerships for the goals). The proposed vision and mission for the National Pharmacy Commission should include pharmacists’ contributions to these goals. This encompasses their potential contribution at all three levels of public health interventions. SDG3 aims to promote health and well-being for all ages, while SDG17 focuses on partnerships to achieve these goals. Interprofessional education (IPE) and collaborative practices, including collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM), align well with these objectives.
The document references the CSIRO (2020) report, which identifies megatrends likely to impact the next two decades. Among these, the escalating health imperative is a key trend, especially in the post-pandemic world. These trends pose challenges and opportunities for pharmacists to innovate and adapt their practice to deliver optimal patient- and public-centered health services.
Andrew J McLachlan and Parisa Aslani, in 2019, highlighted the evolving role of pharmacy in primary health care. They outlined key areas where pharmacists can contribute, including integrated healthcare services, managing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), promoting immunisation, supporting treatment adherence, and collaborating with healthcare teams. The role of pharmacists is not just limited to medication management but extends to chronic disease management, drug information, and education, among other areas.
The Commission’s regulatory powers enable it to expand the pharmacy profession’s scope. This includes integrating certification opportunities for primary care pharmacists, such as Certified Ambulatory Care provider, Certified Anticoagulation Care Provider, and others.
The proposed National Pharmacy Commission Bill 2023 is a pivotal step in redefining the role of pharmacists in India’s primary healthcare system. It must empower pharmacists as key members of the primary health team and acknowledge their crucial role in implementing SDGs. Pharmacists in various settings, including academia, are vital partners in promoting health through disease prevention and are responsible for developing future pharmacy leaders. The Bill’s success will be instrumental in transforming the landscape of primary health care in India.
ASHP (2022) Statement on the Role of Pharmacists in Primary Care. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc
The Pharmacy guild of Australia (2023) POSITION STATEMENT. Pharmacy in Primary Health Care. Endorsed, National Council – June 2023, Reviewed, Policy and Regulation Sub-Committee – November 2022
Hajkowicz S, Bratanova A, Schleiger E and Brosnan A.(2020) . Global trade and investment megatrends: Exploring opportunities and risks for the Australian economy during and after the COVID-19 crisis with strategic foresight. CSIRO Data61. Brisbane, Australia.
Andrew J McLachlan, Parisa Aslani (2019) Future health: Pharmacists in primary care. Australian Pharmacist. -June 28, 2019