Written by : Jayati Dubey
November 15, 2023
The draft bill proposes establishing the National Pharmacy Commission, headquartered in New Delhi, replacing the Pharmacy Act 1948, and dissolving the existing Pharmacy Council of India (PCI).
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has unveiled the draft National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023, aiming to overhaul the pharmacy education system in India. The proposed legislation seeks to replace the existing Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) with the National Pharmacy Commission, aligning with the National Medical Commission Act 2019.
The bill's primary objectives include enhancing access to quality and affordable pharmacy education, ensuring the availability of skilled pharmacy professionals nationwide, conducting transparent assessments of pharmacy institutions, and maintaining ethical standards in pharmacy services.
Under the draft bill, the National Pharmacy Commission would be established with its headquarters in New Delhi, replacing the Pharmacy Act 1948 and dissolving the PCI. The commission's composition would include a chairperson, 13 ex-officio members, and 14 part-time members, all appointed through specified procedures.
The commission would be tasked with coordinating and integrating the development of pharmacy education, setting standards for service delivery, and conducting periodic revisions as specified by regulations.
One of the significant proposals is introducing a uniform mechanism for pharmacy institution admissions at various levels. The Central government would manage admissions at the national level, while state authorities would oversee admissions at the state level.
The bill also outlines a mechanism, potentially through a final-year undergraduate exam, to ensure the competence of pharmacy professionals for enrollment in the National or State Register and to obtain a professional licence.
The draft bill emphasises collaboration with industry and institutions to incorporate cutting-edge technology and hybrid education methods, fostering innovation and research in pharmacy. Additionally, it aims to integrate soft skills and elective courses into pharmacy qualifications and enhance the skills and competency of registered professionals for global mobility.
Three new boards would be constituted under the Central government – the Pharmacy Education Board, the Pharmacy Assessment and Rating Board, and the Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board. These boards would be responsible for determining pharmacy education standards, assessing and rating institutions, and regulating professional conduct and ethics, respectively.
The Pharmacy Assessment and Rating Board would handle procedures for assessing and rating pharmacy institutions, grant permission for new establishments or courses, and conduct inspections. It would also assign independent rating agencies and take corrective measures, such as warnings, penalties, and withdrawal of recognition, for institutions failing to maintain essential standards.
Furthermore, the Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board would maintain a National Pharmacy Register containing the details of registered professionals, approve or reject registration applications, and regulate professional conduct and ethics.
The draft bill includes provisions for establishing State Pharmacy Chapters within a year from the commencement of the Act. State Pharmacy Chapters would consist of a chairperson, four ex-officio members, and three part-time members.
Notably, the bill incorporates measures to streamline the approval process for new pharmacy institutions, courses, or seat increases. The Pharmacy Assessment and Rating Board would consult the Pharmacy Education Board before granting or refusing permission, and the process would be documented in writing with speaking orders. Institutes offering M.Pharma courses recognised by NIPER would be exempted from this provision.
The Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board would maintain an online National Pharmacy Register containing comprehensive information about registered professionals.
This draft bill reflects the government's ongoing efforts to revamp healthcare regulatory bodies following the establishment of an expert committee earlier this year to review and restructure the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). The proposed changes aim to modernise pharmacy education, ensure quality standards, and align with evolving healthcare needs in India.