The Union health ministry’s recent move to allow pharmacists to prescribe medicines in PHCs for treating minor ailments in the rural areas is the latest initiative to address this problem. Indian Pharmacists Association has been suggesting to the ministry to bring this reform in the health care sector for the welfare of the patient community for some time now. In states like Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh the local governments have already allowed pharmacists to prescribe medicines for minor ailments. Early this year, the Union health ministry has been considering the suggestion to allow Ayush doctors to practice allopathy and use modern medical technology for treating patients in rural areas. In fact, Maharashtra government allowed qualified homoeopathic doctors to practice modern medicine in the villages last year so as to provide some medical help to its rural population in case of an emergency. The permission is being granted on the condition that they should pass a one-year course in pharmacology conducted by the State Medical Education Board. Such localized actions by the state governments cannot solve this issue on a national level. For that the health ministry has to take a policy decision on the proposal to allow qualified pharmacists to prescribe medicines for minor ailments in rural areas without much delay. Competent pharmacists with qualifications of Pharm D and B Pharm are available in the country with the knowledge of pharmacology of drugs and their uses, side effects and drug interactions. The health ministry’s initiative of allowing pharmacists and medical practitioners of other systems to prescribe medicines is, however, being strongly opposed by the allopathy doctors and their associations. Their argument is that by allowing professionals other than allopathy doctors can dilute the modern medical practice in the country ultimately resulting in a sharp rise in the number of quacks in the country. That possibility cannot be ruled out totally but medical needs of the rural folk cannot be ignored too.
Pharm.D @ SRIPMS-CBE-TN