The call made by the government of Nepal for the provision of basic health care for all has increased the scope for health practitioners in the country. One of the career opportunities in this field is that of a pharmacist who assists in rational supply and use of pharmaceuticals within health care services and private pharmacies.
Many institutions in Nepal offer various courses in this field including bachelor's in pharmacy (B.Pharm), Master's in pharmacy (M.Pharm) and diploma in pharmacy (D.Pharm).
D.Pharm is a three-year intermediate level (annual system) course, which the Centre for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) has been offering since 2003 with the aim of producing technically competent pharmacy professionals who provide mid-level services. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in a variety of technical tasks, including packaging and labelling drugs prescribed by a doctor, maintaining records and counselling patients for their proper intake.
As of the present, 2,200 students have graduated in this course of whom 1,300 have been registered with the Nepal Pharmacy Council.
"Students wanting to pursue a career as health practitioners are most attracted to D.Pharm as they can join it right after their SLC," said Saurav Ghimire, pharmacy instructor of Shraddha Nursing College.
The requirement to enrol in D.Pharm is SLC with at least a second division. Students also have to pass an entrance exam conducted by CTEVT. The course includes the basic science curriculum (physics, chemistry, zoology, botany and mathematics) in the first year and the curriculum of pharmaceutical proper in second and third years.
CTEVT has provided affiliation to 21 health institutes in the country. There are 11 institutes offering D.Pharm in the Kathmandu Valley including Shraddha Nursing College, National Academy for Medicine Science, Nobel College of Medical Science, Nepal Institute of Health Science, Pinnacle Technical College and Kantipur College of Medical Science. There are 10 other institutes located outside the valley including Mayadevi Technical Institute (Butwal), Koshi Health Institute (Biratnagar), College of Medical Science (Dharan), Unique Education Academy (Rajbiraj), School of Health Science (Bharatpur) and Western Health Science Academy (Pokhara).
Shyam Shrestha, principal of Nobel College of Medical Science, said that students were taking this course due to its growing scope for jobs. Graduates can start at the assistant level at druggists and chemists, hospitals and public health institutions. They can also start their own business by opening wholesale and retail shops selling medicines. D.Pharm graduates can join community health services and earn a minimum salary of Rs. 8,000 per month.
Shrestha said that 70 students had graduated from Nobel College with D.Pharm and that it planned to start B.Pharm from next year.
Dr. Panna Thapa, chairman of the Nepal Pharmacy Council and dean of the science faculty, Kathmandu University, said that students could start their own businesses after getting a D.Pharm and being registered with the council. Thapa added that a pharmacy degree was now essential to open a medicine shop. According to him, the degree is recognised in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the UK and the US to pursue higher studies in pharmacy. Thapa said that three new institutes in Biratnagar, Damak and Nepalgunj would be offering the course from next year.
CTEVT has allocated 40 seats for each institute offering this degree whose fee structure ranges from Rs. 150,000 to Rs. 200,000.
Thapa said, "There is growing scope in health pharmacy practice throughout the world for which a formal course is essential."
Kedar Kadel, campus chief of Kantipur College of Medical Science, said it was a practical-based course with the aim of producing good counsellor-level professionals in the field of pharmacy. He added that graduates in this course were more sought after than students who had completed the three-month training being provided by the Department of Drug Management.
A D.Pharm degree opens the door to bachelor in pharmacy, bachelor in public health or bachelor in education (health). Students can also enrol in the MBBS course offered by the Institute of Medicine, TU after completing an additional three-month bridge course offered by the Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB). Recently, the Patan Academy of Health Science (Patan Hospital) has begun offering the MBBS course directly to students holding a D.Pharm.
Yam Prasad Adhikari, proprietor and managing director of the All Nepal Institute of Medical Science, said that the degree would be essential in any field related to medicine as the government has been targeting more regulatory measures in public health. The institute was established in 2004 and 120 D.Pharm graduates have passed out so far.
Bal Krishna Khakurel, a pharmacist and registrar of the Nepal Pharmacy Council, said that around 800 to 1,000 students graduated in D.Pharm annually. He said that the diploma in pharmacy would assist good pharmacy practice which the government was planning to implement as policy.
According to Khakurel, D.Pharm is equivalent to +2 in science which permits students to enrol in any field related to human science.
(Source: The Kathmandu Post: Published in July 12, 2010)