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The Controversy of PharmD Degree; American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


Am J Pharm Educ. 2008 June 15; 72(3): 71.; PMCID:  PMC2508726;  Copyright © 2008 – American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.


Syed Imran Ahmed, BPharm, MPharm (Clinical 3Pharmacy) and Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali, BPharm, MPharm, PhD

School of Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences International Medical University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Discipline of Social and Administrative Pharmacy University Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, Malaysia

To the Editor: With the help of the American Journal of Pharmacy Education (AJPE), which has established a reputation for providing a forum for discussion about the issues in pharmacy education and practice, I would like to draw the attention of readers – especially people in the pharmacy profession – toward issues regarding the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree.

In reference to a letter recently published in AJPE, entitled “PharmD Degree in Developing Countries,” I have a few concerns with the author’s criticism of the progress of the PharmD program in developing countries such as India, Pakistan, and Iran.1 I agree that the PharmD degree is a multidisciplinary and multifactorial program with the aim of producing a pharmacist equipped with better clinical skills who can provide pharmaceutical care to the patient. Before we comment on this program, we must look at the history of the development of the pharmacy profession. It took years for the pharmacy profession to be recognized as a separate health care profession, which is very different from the traditional perception of pharmacy as a compounding and dispensing job. Further, it took years, even in developed countries like the United States, to revolutionize the pharmacist’s job from merely a dispenser to a highly skilled clinical pharmacist. As Miller states: “The clinical pharmacy movement began at the University of Michigan in the early 1960s.”3

Now, in countries like the United States, mostly clinically skilled pharmacists are required in order to fulfill the requirements of the system that has developed there over the years. Because the PharmD program was first introduced in the United States, the curriculum is modified to be useful for that system, having more training, attachments, and clinical studies. Now the question arises, where does the practice of pharmacy stand in other countries? We know that the conditions are worse in developing countries where the profession is still fighting to be recognized with its own worth and reputation.

In most of these countries, the main option for a graduated pharmacist is still to work in pharmaceutical industries. If those graduates had not learned anything about industrial pharmacy in their pharmacy curriculum, what would they do? That is why they still keep the industrial pharmacy aspects as part of their curriculum, together with the introduction of more clinically oriented modules and hospital attachments. Here an issue arises that has somehow become a bone of contention among pharmacy professionals all over the world: since every country has its own standards of pharmacy practice, is it right to at least produce similarity in terms of degree that these graduates are getting from different universities in the world? In my opinion we should have a similarity of degrees issued. One major reason is that when different graduates from different parts of the world want to write any pharmacy board registration examination, the first consideration goes to their education evaluation in terms of number of years they spent to get their basic degree. In this respect, it would not be fair to these graduates if they can not take these registration examinations because they do not have a-5-year PharmD degree. According to the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination (FPGEE) Committee: ‘‘Beginning January 1, 2003, NABP will require foreign educated pharmacists to have earned their professional degree from a five-year curriculum program in order to apply for Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC) Certification.’’ The decision is said to have been prompted by establishment of the 6-year doctor of pharmacy (Pharm D) curriculum in the United States.4

Another issue is whether any criteria determine that countries can award a PharmD degree with modified curriculum according to their pharmacy practice requirements. In our opinion it is an issue that should be discussed rather than simply criticized. Since the 4-year bachelor of pharmacy degree program is still being used in the majority of the countries in the world as a basic pharmacy program, when it was in practice in the United States and other developed countries before introducing the PharmD program, even then there was a difference in pharmacy practice and standards in different countries so why all of sudden with PharmD degree introduction a lot of criticism starts on these countries since they are trying to move together with the world.

In conclusion, our opinion is that the PharmD degree either (1) should be specified for producing clinical pharmacists, and bachelor of pharmacy programs should be continued as basic degree programs; or (2) there must be a similar definition of the PharmD degree all over the world. We think this decision should be made by decision-making authorities/associations who seek out the opinions of experts in the field. We also need to open this topic for discussion so that more ideas can be shared on some basic facts, and not simply criticize and present our own views. We hope that authorities will take this issue in consideration before it starts affecting pharmacists.

Syed Imran Ahmed, BPharm, MPharm (Clinical Pharmacy)

School of Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences International Medical University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali, BPharm, MPharm, PhD

Discipline of Social and Administrative Pharmacy University Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, Malaysia


1. Jamshed S, Zaheer Ud Din Babar, Masood I. The Pharm Degree in Developing Countries [letter]Am J Pharm Educ. 2007;71(6) Article 125.

2. Ghilzai NM, Dutta AP. India to introduce five-year Pharm D program [letter] Am J Pharm Educ.2007;71(2) Article 38.

3. Miller RR. History of clinical pharmacy and clinical pharmacology. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981;21:195–7. [PubMed]

4. Dutta A, Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar. The FPGEE Curriculum Requirement: An Insurmountable Hurdle? [letter] Am J Pharm Educ. 2005;69(5) Article 105.

Articles from American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education are provided here courtesy of
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

A pharmacy delegate has visited Mr. Abdul Jalil Joint Secretary, Health / PDM Cabinet Block, Islamabad, Pakistan regarding the revised six year curriculum of Pharm-D proposed by Higher Education Commission, Pakistan

Pharmaceutical Review ( A delegate of pharmacist community has visited to Mr. Abdul Jalil Joint Secretary, Health / PDM Cabinet Block, Islamabad, Pakistan regarding the revised six year curriculum of Pharm-D proposed by Higher Education Commission, Pakistan. The delegate comprised of as under;

1. Dr. Taha Nazir Associate Professor, Riphah International University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

2. Mr. Iradat Hussain, Margalla Institute of Health Sciences, Islamabad, Pakistan.

3. Mr. Zia Uddin University of Malakant, KPK, Vice President Pakistan Pharmacist Federation, KPK.

4. Dr. Ahmad Saeed Malik; Chief Organizer Young Pharmacist Association, Pakistan.

5. Ahmed Salman Javed Media Adviser, Pharmacist Federation Pakistan.

The members of this delegate has emphasized Joint Secretary, Health / PDM Cabinet Block to avoid implementation of this new six year Pharm-D program proposed by Higher Education Commission, Islamabad without proper vetting. Especially the extension of duration in prevailing financial situation is big burden and will contribute to worsen the economic situation of students and their parents. Hence; Mr. Abdul Jalil Joint Secretary, Health / PDM Cabinet has accepted the raised issues. He told to the expert pharmacists that the points raised will be considered and discussed before formal implementation.

 The graduating pharmacist, in present scenario are higher than need in health care system or jobs available in health sectors. Thus; the overwhelming majority of pharmacy graduates are unemployed. Moreover; the one year pre-registration training become useless when student are already academically bound to work with pharmaceutical industries, hospitals, community pharmacies and health care settings to get initial training/ apprenticeship/ clerkship for two years (from 7th semester to 10th semester). In advance countries, pre-registration training is mandatory and instituted to compensate the resource deficiency, structured and well-paid by the state.