Wherever civilisation arises; we find pharmacy, because it fulfils one of man’s basic needs. This effort to grasp from nature for whatever might shield us from affliction was earlier a service before it came to be known as a profession. Pharmacy thus, has a long history. Fossils from plants with medicinal properties have been found with the remains of Neanderthals, indicating that early man used these plants as drugs around 50,000 BC.
The ancient Egyptians possessed quite a considerable degree of pharmaceutical lore, and their writings tell us that they could supply infusions, decoctions, macerations, inhalations, garg1es, poultices, and in fact practically the same type of preparations the older pharmacists of today, would still recognise.
Pharmaceutical knowledge at that period was not confined to the Egyptians. The Chinese had their-Pun Tsao or Great Herbal, which was an extremely interesting manuscript. Some of the remedies described in this book are toad’s eyelids for colds, and earthworms rolled in honey for gastritis.
The Greeks have also made significant contribution to the world of medicine in two giant steps, which is expressed in the writings of Hippocrates. Firstly, they began to look for natural causes and effects in producing disease, and secondly they produced the first clearly recognisable descriptions of diseases and epidemics. These first steps in scientific medicine existed side by side with belief in divine powers of the oracles and priests to treat illness. Soon after, the methods of thought expounded by Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle began to escape from the power of the supernatural, which allowed the development of Western science.
In 1240, the German Emperor Frederick II issued an edict that essentially separated the practice of medicine and pharmacy, giving rise to the professional pharmacy. The defining moment, after almost 200 years of argument, came with the passing of the Apothecaries Act of 1815. Prior to this, many apothecaries practiced medicine, but they weren’t supposed to charge for their advice, but only for the drugs they supplied. The outcome of the new Apothecaries Act was a clearer definition of the two streams of practice involving, medicine and pharmacy.
Very soon the discovery of the Sulphonamide group of drugs saved many lives in the Second World War, before Penicillin became freely available. The many technological improvements during the nineteenth century ranging from the stethoscope to X-rays and especially the identification of many of the bacteria responsible for infectious diseases, put clinical observation and treatment on a much firmer empirical basis.
In the 19th century, pharmacy began a transformation from an art to a science. Natural products that were long a staple in the pharmaceutical armament were being analysed for their chemical makeup. Scientists began exploring the structure of drugs, linking it to the activity of compounds, and they began to synthesise compounds with similar structures. Industry was still in its infancy but the mass production of drug products had started. New standards and new knowledge meant new opportunities for precision in prescribing compounding and dosing; opportunities that pharmacy and medicine had never known before.
The 20th century will be forever remembered for its remarkable advances in chemistry, medicine and pharmacy. Countless new drugs were discovered and manufacturers were literally at war to stay ahead with new patents.
The face of pharmacy may have changed over the past 1000 years, but its traditional role remains the same. Although the preparation and preservation of drug products have moved from pharmacy to the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacist continues to fulfill the prescriber’s intentions, by not only dispensing a medication but also by providing a quality product, providing advice and information, and monitoring drug therapy.
“World’s R&D destination of the future – India”
The pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is undergoing a period of profound transformation. Many analysts agree that the industry is moving from the era of ‘blockbuster drug’ to a new operating model known as personalised medicine.
The most important event in the pharmaceutical industry has been the Patent Act of 1970, which has transformed our industry to a supplier of low cost medicines, initially within India and now to the world. This dramatic low cost revolution has helped penetrate the availability of medicines and made it accessible to a large part of India and in these 30 odd years this accessibility has moved up from 20% to more than 80% now. In fact, nearly 99% medicines used in India are produced in India. This is basically because of the existence of a large number of scientists who have leveraged their scientific skills to develop new chemistry technologies.
Today, India produces 22% medicines of the global generic market. In the last decade, after liberalization, Indian industry has focused on the world market and brought about structural and fundamental changes like investing in research and accessing the global market.
According to Department of Biotechnology, about 165 institutions in the country are engaged in genetic engineering research. India is one of the few countries, that has developed stem cell lines as a part of the stem cell network worldwide. According to the Accelerator Group Outlook, the contract research organisation (C.R.O.) market is set to grow to US$ 1 billion by 2010.
India has now earned global recognition for the inherent strength in the knowledge society. This will accelerate the process of research in India. For example, companies like Pfizer, Novartis and Glaxo have started their Clinical Research Organisations in India and in times to come, other companies will create major research hubs in India, in addition to US, Europe and Japan.
India’s one billion population offers a new advantage to pharmaceutical and many other industries. It provides a large consumer base, a large number of subjects for clinical trials and diverse profiles required for clinical assessment. These factors make India an interesting place to do clinical research; to evaluate new medicines, medical equipments, instruments etc. much faster, make newer approach in these areas, in addition to making the treatment available to the world much faster.
This growth has led the players in the Indian pharmaceutical industry to explore newer avenues of drug research, discovery and development; thus promising higher capital investments in the near future. Many multinational companies have also entered India to market drugs and conduct clinical trials and research. Indian pharmaceutical research, manufacturing, and outsourcing have received an impetus, creating the image of a land of opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, there is tremendous potential presented in the Indian pharma market itself, with the consumer spending on healthcare going up from four percent of GDP in 1995 to seven percent in 2007. This figure is expected to go up to 13 percent of GDP by 2015. According to a recent McKinsey report, that will turn India into a $20 billion pharma market.
There has never been a more exciting time to consider a career in pharmacy. The profession is experiencing a period of unprecedented progress and development. The skills of pharmacists have never been in greater demand and to deliver the latest, cutting-edge treatments and medicines to millions of patients every day.
Pharmacy education has been in an almost constant state of change for the past 150 years, since the era when a pharmacist learned by being an apprentice. Over the years, pharmacy has grown in the form of pharmaceuticals sciences through research and development processes. It is related to products as well as to services. The various drugs discovered and developed are its products and the healthcare it provides comes under the category of services.
Pharmacy involves all the stages that are associated with drugs i.e. discovery, development, action, safety, formulation, use, quality control, packaging, storage, marketing, etc. This profession has a large socio-economic relevance to the Indian economy. In India, this sector is among the future economy drivers. It is committed to deliver high quality drugs and formulations at an affordable price, so that majority of people can afford them. The transformation of the sector from conventional pharmacy to drug experts, which is both desired and necessary to reach the global standards, has already made commendable progress.
Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG) have helped the Indian pharmaceutical companies to achieve international recognition. It is remarkable to note that, today several Indian pharma companies are approved by US F.D.A. and are listed at N.A.S.DA.Q. Indian pharmaceutical industry is undergoing fast paced changes. The Indian Generics market is witnessing rapid growth, opening up immense opportunities for firms. The industry ranks fourth globally in terms of volume and thirteenth in terms of value. The quality of the products is reflected in the fact that India has the highest number of manufacturing plants approved by US FDA, which is next to that of US.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is emerging as a low-cost, high quality option for outsourcing of research, manufacturing and other services, offering a great opportunity for the Indian pharma companies. Further, Innovation and technology are the two factors due to which India is on its way to become the preferred global supplier for drugs and dosage forms and also a hub for contract research and manufacturing, contract research organisations and R&D activities.
Society will become increasingly technology literate and technology driven. Technology will be deployed fully to dispense most prescriptions, provide drug information to patients, and facilitate the exchange of patient-specific data among and within health care systems.
The pace of new discoveries in biotechnology and health care and the appearance of whole new fields of endeavour in recent years, have made for an exciting and challenging time for pharmacists. The increasing demands of understanding how modern medicines work at the molecular level, the shift towards predictive, preventive and personalised health care and challenges from nanotechnology and stem cell technology have added to the need for pharmacists to remain experts in medicine.
Another emerging field which will impact pharmacists is the advent of ‘personalised medicine’, enabled by the genomic revolution. Indeed, the human genome project has led to the identification of over 32,000 genes in human cells. And, through the burgeoning field of pharmacogenetics, it is increasingly apparent that the effectiveness and toxicity of drug regimens vary from patient to patient as they are influenced by the genetic make-up of the individual.
The future of health care is closely intertwined with developments in nanotechnology, stem cells, genomics and proteomics. Nanotechnology is here with us today and is being used in an evolutionary manner to improve the properties of many therapeutics and healthcare products.
How these technologies will evolve and be used safely for all our benefit will be one of the great scientific adventures of the 21st century and one in which pharmacists will play an important role.