The future of thousands of pharmacists in the province who had been pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as Pharm-D, is at stake as around 12 different departments and institutes across different universities are not registered with the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan, a professional body responsible for the accreditation of the degrees.
The departments in question have been carrying out educational activities based solely on no objection certificates (NOCs) issued by the federal government. The students who have finished their five-year degree programme and those who are pursuing the same, meanwhile, are left fearing for their future because - without the departments’ registration, their degrees remain unrecognised, thus barring them from getting jobs.
An official privy to the development told The Express Tribune that out of 19 pharmacy departments and institutions in various public and private universities across Sindh, only seven are registered, while the rest have not yet met the criteria laid out by the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan.
“Departments and universities are required to provide essential facilities within their premises. Among others, the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at Peoples University of Medical and Health Science for Women (PUMHSW), the pharmacy department of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, and the pharmacy department of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University, Larkana, are not registered,” he said.
One of the students, who finished her degree from PUMHSW Shaheed Benazirabad campus, described her ordeal.
“My institute was established in 2014. I am one of the 50 students from the first batch pursuing a Pharm-D. We had no idea the institute was not registered,” she said. “When we found out, the university’s administration said the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan would soon visit the department and register it. It has been almost seven years and two more batches have graduated, but nothing has been done.”
Another student said they are unable to get jobs abroad, are not eligible for government jobs, cannot establish their pharmacies, or get lucrative jobs in the private sector.
“Without our institute’s registration, our degrees are worthless. Even private companies who agree to hire us deduct our salaries because of this,” she lamented.
The minimum criteria for the registration of pharmaceutical institutes with the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan include having adequate physical facilities for academic blocks, complete infrastructure development, the institute’s affiliation with the university, financial viability, the establishment of a library and the appointment of registered faculty members, among others.
PUMHSW’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Science Nawabshah campus director Professor Hamid Kazi said that he took over the charge in 2018 and had fulfilled the criteria to register the institute.
“We have written to the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan many times to come and visit the campus and start the inspection of our institute, but unfortunately, the council’s current body’s tenure is over. It was dissolved in September last year,” he said. “Until a new body is established, the issue cannot be resolved.” Professor Kazi added that he also approached higher authorities in Islamabad, but the matter was left pending because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On the other hand, a senior health department official, who requested not to be named, said each province’s health department plays a pivotal role in the registration process, but the “Sindh Pharmacy Council” has been lying dormant for the last 13 years.
“All pharmacy councils in other provinces, including Balochistan, are expediting the registration of pharmaceutical institutes in their provinces. The issue is only in Sindh,” he said.
Despite many attempts, the health minister and the health secretary could not be reached. However, a health department spokesperson said that meetings had been held on the matter and it would be resolved soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2020.