For more than six decades, Sham Lal Nasa has borne witness to many changes in India’s pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy education, but feels a lot more needs to be done By Usha Sharma
One of the founder members of the Indian Pharmacy Graduates’ Association (IPGA) and Indian Hospital Pharmacists Association, Sham Lal Nasa has contributed in no small measure to the present day stature of India’s pharmaceutical industry. By helping to shape pharmacy education policy, he has tried to ensure that academia keeps pace with industry needs.
Born in December 1935 in Jhallari village, in present day Pakistan, he recalls moving to and settling in India post partition along with family members.
His father Atma Ram Nasa wanted him to join the medical profession and hence he enrolled in the Government Medical College Amritsar in 1953. Two years later, on receiving a diploma in pharmacy, he started his career as a hospital pharmacist in Lady Hardinge Hospital (Kalawati Saran Children Hospital) and three years later, followed this up with a similar position in Safdarjang Hospital from 1958 to 1964.
There was no looking back. He decided to delve deeper into the pharmacy profession, by juggling both job and further studies in order to enhance his capabilities with a B Pharma from Delhi University. Expressing gratitude to his role model he says, “My role model is Dr BD Miglani, under whom I started my career as a hospital pharmacist in Lady Harding Hospital and later Safdarjang Hospital. He became a real eye opener for me in each and every sphere.” Besides Miglani, SL Nasa also counts Dr GK Naraynan, Principal, College of Pharmacy and Dr JS Qadry, Principal, Jamia Hamdard as strong motivational forces in his professional journey.
In turn, SL Nasa has passed on his respect for the pharmacy profession to the next generation, with both his children deciding to follow in his path. Ever the proud father, he shares that his son, Sandeep did an M. Pharm in pharmacognosy and phytochemistry and is currently with JB Chemicals as Head of Exports, posted in Moscow for the last 15 years. His daughter, Monica Madan did an M.Pharm in pharmaceutical chemistry and worked as a scientist in the R&D department of Ranbaxy Laboratories, Gurgaon before she decided to focus on her family. His wife Sneh Prabha was a librarian in the Pusa Polytechnic, New Delhi before she retired.
Recalling the evolution of the pharma industry in India, he says , “After a long period of a negative balance of trade in pharma products, India started enjoying a positive balance of trade from the late ‘80’s. By the late ‘90’s the pharma industry of India had reached a position of near self-sufficiency in formulations. In terms of production volume, India today accounts for eight per cent of world’s pharma production and is the fifth largest country in the world after the US, Japan, Europe and China.”
In terms of manufacturing facilities too, he underlines the growth trajectory saying, “The number of pharma manufacturers increased from a mere 200 in 1950-1951 to more than 6000 in the ‘80’s, which reached a phenomenal figure of 23,790 in 1998-99. Of this, a sizable percentage of firms belong to the small-scale sector. It is estimated that out of the 28.6 million strong workforce employed in the pharma sector, about 4.6 million are employed in organised units while the rest are engaged in the distribution and ancillary segments.”
This characteristic of the pharma industry in India has strategic importance, because as he says, “These units produce drugs that are not under patent protection and are analogous to products that are already present in the market. Hence competition is severe among pharma units in India, which is one of the important reasons for the relatively lower prices of medicines in India. At present there are around 16000 manufacturing units in the country of which 300 are in the organised sector.”
Another parameter to gauge the success of any industry is volume of exports. As he points out, “The export value of the pharma sector is today approx. Rs 56000 crores while at the time the country achieved independence, the country was importing pharma products. Today, the country exports to many developed countries; indeed exports to the US alone stand at $ 4.23 billion.”
SL Nasa is clear that this growth of the Indian pharma industry prior to the new intellectual property regime was due to a favourable patent policy, i.e. the Patent Act, 1970 which provided ample opportunities for the growth of domestic pharma companies.
His contribution lies is helping to shape the pharmacy education policy in India. Recalling a pivotal milestone, he says, “We wanted to amend the Pharmacy Act, 1948 and we were able to press the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) to introduce the 12th grade as a minimum qualification to enter pharmacy courses leading to the framing of ER-91 by PCI.”
Roll of honour
- 1990: Best Pharmacist by Railway Pharmacists Association
- 1993: .LSchroff Memorial National Award by IHPA
- 1994: Best Teacher Award in Pharmacy by the Govt. of Delhi
- 1998: Best Pharmacist Award by C.G.H.S. Pharmacists Association
- 1988: Fellowship Award by Institute of Chemists
- 2003: Fellowship Award by Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA)
- 2009: Life Time Achievement Award from the Indian Hospital Pharmacists Association, UP State Branch : Best alumni award by the College of Pharmacy (DIPSAR), Delhi
Like any other industry, the pharma sector too has many challenges which require strategic shifts. The amendment of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 tops his wishlist of changes which he would like to see in the pharma sector as he believes that there are certain loop holes in the Act when it was notified in 1940. There were only a handful of pharmacy colleges offering diploma-level courses and very few degree colleges offering graduate level pharmacist qualifications. However the situation today is vastly different, with more than 40,000 D.Pharm and 50,000 graduates in pharmacy. Hence he opines that rule 71 & 76 of the Drugs & Cosmetic Act should be omitted and a B.Sc. qualification should be replaced with a B.Pharm qualification as the minimum requirement
In the same vein, he opines that a B.Pharm should be made a minimum qualification for registration as a pharmacist. Last December, the PCI released a notification in the official gazette that stating that D Pharm students can undergo a two year B.Pharm practice course so that they can be at par with the B.Pharm students. In this way D.Pharm students too will be trained to offer patient counseling on drug–drug and drug–food interactions which is vital from a patient safety perspective.
His third suggestion is that pharmacy education should be under the sole purview of the PCI rather than the present scenario where it is divided into many parts: i.e. undergraduate pharmacy courses are under the AICTE, where as higher education and research is under the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers i.e. NIPERs in our country.
Many miles to go
Presently, Nasa serves as a registrar of Delhi Pharmacy Council. Beside this he is an Ambasador of the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission, one of the Directors of the Indian Confederation of Health Accreditation, President of the Indian Hospital Pharmacists Association, Executive Member of APTI, a Visiting Professor at DIPSAR and Jamia Hamdard, an advisor of IPGA, Inspector at the PCI and also looks after various activities of these professional associations as their advisor. As if this were not enough, he also lectures and presents papers at national and international level meets and seminars. He also finds time to guide M.Pharm students of hospital pharmacy in DIPSAR. He was also President of the Indian Pharmaceutical Congress (2010).
Unveiling his likes and hobbies Nasa reveals that he loves to travel and counts Moscow, Pittsburg, Switzerland, Thailand, Bangkok, Lisbon, Italy, and France as memorable milestones in his globe-trotting avatar. Playing badminton was a hobby in his younger days while today he counts reading books and watching movies as his key leisure time activities.
He is the managing trustee of Hospital Pharmacy Foundation, Managing Trustee of Delhi Pharmacy Council, Regd. Pharmacists Welfare Trust & Trustee of IPGA Welfare Trust. He is Advisor for various journals viz IPGA TODAY, Indian Pharmacist, Pharma Review, and Pharma Paramarsh, & Associate Editor of Indian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy since 1964. He got him self commissioned in the National Cadet Corp. from NCC Officer’s School Kamtee (Nagpur) and he served as NCC officer for more than two decade in College of Pharmacy.
While signing off, he exhorts young and upcoming pharma professionals “To work in unity, to raise the standards of pharmacy profession advising pharmacists to look after patient safety by patient counseling and more interaction with patients in order to guide them on administration of proper dosage form at appropriate times, as prescribed by the doctors.”