Indian Journal of Pharmacology Home 

[Download PDF]
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 48  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 3--4

Pharmacology education in India: Challenges ahead

Dinesh Kumar Badyal 
 Department of Pharmacology, CMCL-FAIMER Regional Institute, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Correspondence Address:
Dinesh Kumar Badyal
Department of Pharmacology, CMCL-FAIMER Regional Institute, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab

How to cite this article:
Badyal DK. Pharmacology education in India: Challenges ahead.Indian J Pharmacol 2016;48:3-4

How to cite this URL:
Badyal DK. Pharmacology education in India: Challenges ahead. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 20 ];48:3-4
Available from:

Full Text

Pharmacology earlier known as Materia Medica was recognized as a specialty during the 1960s. In India, the genesis of pharmacology as a distinct specialty happened in the year 1921 when Col. Ram Nath Chopra took over as the first Professor of Pharmacology at the School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata. The subject gained momentum along with developments in drug discovery around 1960s, which were also marked by significant events such as publication of the “Goodman and Gilman’s: The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics” and the first scientific journal in the subject entitled, “Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.” Louis Lasagna from John Hopkins Hospital Lasagna published, “Present status and future development of clinical pharmacology,” a very lucid publication in this context at that time. It took some more time and efforts for the birth of the Indian Pharmacological Society in 1966.[1],[2]

The scope of pharmacology has expanded in various dimensions. Pharmacology education today has grown beyond teaching of Materia Medica of the yesteryears. Pharmacology education has evolved over time along with a congruent rise in the demand for trained pharmacologists in India, both in academics as well in other areas such as pharmaceutical industry, regulatory bodies, and national research institutes. The new courses in pharmacology have evolved over the time.

All major medical, dental, nursing, paramedical, and even veterinary courses have significant teaching–learning (TL) activities in pharmacology. At this juncture, much noteworthy advances in the TL methodologies and molecular developments in drug discovery are evident. However, we face challenges in pharmacology education in India due to above reasons as well as due to changing trends in curricula for pharmacology in medical, pharmacy, dental, physiotherapy, nursing, veterinary, and other faculties. A quick look into these challenges is warranted.

 Number of Students/Learners

Educational institutions are witnessing a huge number of intake of undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) students across all faculties. The number is growing in India considering the mushrooming of medical (450), dental (304), pharmacy (>450), and nursing (>2670) colleges and institutes that provide training in clinical research. Approximately 62,000 medical, 48,000 pharmacy, 30,000 dental and >26,000 nursing graduates graduate from these schools in India annually. Pharmacology education is one of the major components of these courses.[3],[4] Pharmacology education includes TL, research and clinical services. Pharmacology taught in UG courses in all the faculties mentioned above forms the foundation for the therapeutic, research and applied skills that the students acquire in these professional courses. It also forms the foundation for the PG courses in pharmacology.

 Technological Adventures

A revolution in the technology being used for teaching pharmacology is observed in the past decade. The use of simulations, computers, software, modules, mobile apps and interactive smart boards is like twin-edged swords, which can enhance as well as disrupt learning, depending on how effectively they are used by the learners. A balanced and appropriate use of these technological advancements is necessary. Use of mannequins, high fidelity computer simulations, CAL programs and smart boards, though welcome, one needs to also consider their cost effectiveness and feasibility across Indian schools. The new technology should be adopted gradually with a studied evaluation of their merits and demerits.

 New Curriculum

The curriculum in every course is revised as per contemporary trends and requirements. For instance, the medical UG curriculum is being revised considering a felt need for training students to be “competent” doctors. An integrative approach and redistribution of teaching hours across the 5-year course are envisaged, to lend continuity of learning and better clinical application. A concurrent revision in teaching tools is also envisaged. The new competency-based curriculum proposed by the Medical Council of India (MCI) has various modules, for example, a module on pharmacoeconomics that will begin from year 1.[5] The MCI states that UG “Training should be able to meet internationally acceptable standards.” Emphasis is also given to “History of Medicine” including discovery of drugs.[6] It will, of course, be a challenge to implement the new curriculum across India, from training the faculty to adopt the novel TL methods, but most important, to attempt a change in the conventional mind-set of the teachers and learners! Since assessment drives learning, the assessment including formative assessment needs to be standardized and implemented well. Feedback, a useful tool in formative assessment, has been neglected and needs to be exploited for better quality of formative assessment. The summative assessment (university examinations) needs to be revamped too.


The traditional knowledge-based teaching in pharmacology needs to be modified to clinical based TL. Novel TL methods such as case-based learning, small group teaching, and bedside teaching are being experimented with across institutions in India, a small step toward sensitizing the faculty and learners to these novel and effective methods. The current scenario with respect to animal experimentation and the emphasis of the respective Councils in India on a contemporary- and competency-based curriculum has to some extent triggered these innovations. Newer methods in assessment such as objectively structured practical examination also need to be explored for their feasibility, sustainability, and effectiveness in the Indian context.[7] The Bloom’s taxonomy and Miller’s pyramids should be used for designing objectives and assessment in pharmacology.[8] These help us choose objectives and design TL at various levels of knowledge and skills domains.

 Faculty Training

Faculty training is the key to the success of any educational program. The need is acute to accept and implement the various innovations in curriculum and TL and assessment methods. Training courses in clinical pharmacology, bioethics, pharmacovigilance, research design, and review process of drug-related projects should be integrated into the pharmacology courses across India.

 Animal Experiments Versus Use of Alternatives

This is a gray area with differing opinions across experts. A consensus and a uniform regulation in this regard are warranted, to avoid confusion and also to help modify the respective curricula, if needed. A rethink about the relevance of animal experiments in some courses is needed. Do we really need animal experiments or even computer-based modules for animal experimentation? The institutes spend a fortune on these modules at the cost of other important areas for investment such as skills laboratories. Are we investing rightly? Alternatives to animal experiments do not mean developing computer program for the conventional animal experiments.[9] It means developing alternative methods to teach students, for example, use freely available animations to teach mechanism of action of drugs, use human volunteers/mannequins to demonstrate a procedure, and using simulated or actual patients to demonstrate effect of drugs. A serious relook at our approach toward these “alternatives” is warranted.


Most institutes in India do not possess the adequate infrastructure to implement or adopt new TL technology. Equipment for teaching clinical pharmacology, computer simulations, mannequins, software, and computer laboratories needs to replace the archaic and unused equipment for conducting animal experiments.

 Integration between Clinical and Other Basic Specialties

Teaching in pharmacology, that aims to impart rational therapeutics in the learners, should be integrated with clinical and other basic sciences for better comprehension and application. The unitary approach needs to be replaced by a modular, integrated approach. The pharmacology teaching needs to be taken to the bedside, rather than in the hallowed lecture rooms.

 Trained Educational Experts

The relevant revisions in various courses need to involve education experts and not just the subject experts. The educational methods are currently not a part of basic UG and PG training and hence pharmacologists who join academics learn teaching by observation rather than through a formal structured training as teachers. The trend is gradually changing given the mandatory training for teachers, recommended by most councils, but the efforts need to be strengthened further.

These challenges, such as all other challenges, need to be transformed into potential opportunities. All stakeholders need to work together toward facing these challenges for a better pharmacology education in India.


1Indian Pharmacological Society. History-Indian Pharmacological Society. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Sep 15].
2Kshirsagar NA, Bachhav SS, Kulkarni LA, Kumar V. Clinical pharmacology training in India: Status and need. Indian J Pharmacol 2013;45:429-33.
3Medical Council of India. Colleges and Courses; 2016. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Oct 01].
4Dental Council of India. Search Colleges; 2016. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Oct 01].
5Badyal DK, Lata H. Undergraduate medical education curriculum in India: Is a change needed? Sub Himalayan J Health Res 2016;3:36-40.
6Medical Council of India. Regulations on Graduate Medical Education; 1997. (Amended Up to 2016 February). Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Sep 15].
7Badyal D. Practical Manual of Pharmacology. New Delhi: Jaypee Publishers; 2008.
8Taylor DC, Hamdy H. Adult learning theories: Implications for learning and teaching in medical education: AMEE Guide No 83. Med Teach 2013;35:e1561-72.
9Badyal DK. Animal use in education in India: Confusion continues. Altern Lab Anim 2014;42:P63-4.