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Why can’t Cameron give pharmacy his direct backing?

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Imagine David Cameron attending the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s conference. Wouldn’t that be a coup? Well, they’ve managed to make it happen in India: Pratibha Patil, the President of India, graced the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences this week. Security was high and it was back to old-fashioned reporting (no digicorders) since reporters were told only a camera, notebook and pen would be allowed inside the venue. As expected with the attendance of important officials, the ceremony started later than billed, but not by much. The Indian reporter next to me (not there for the pharmacy but for the president) had snuck in his mobile phone. “She’s arrived at the airport and is on her way,” he told me.

Perhaps Mrs Patil’s presence is an indication of just how important pharmacy is in India, which has a pool of a million pharmacists. Its pharmaceutical industry is expanding rapidly: it is already the third largest in the world by volume and has the largest number of US FDA-approved plants outside of the US. Its present turnover is $12billion and this is expected to grow to $20bn by 2015.

And, with such obvious support from the country’s president, why wouldn’t it? “[India] has a competitive cost advantage and a pool of skilled workforce of high managerial and technical competence. Hence several multinational companies are increasingly making India their research and development hub,” Mrs Patil said. What a great ad.

She even put in a good word for the country’s traditional remedies. “I believe that we should draw on the rich resource of our indigenous knowledge of medicine [Ayurveda] and reach out to those who have effective remedies but are hesitant to disclose them, and bring these into broader usage,” she said.

So, why can’t our prime minister be seen to give our industry and profession a boost by attending a pharmacy conference or two in the UK ? But then again, in the words of another congress participant from the UK, “would you want him to?”

Lin-Nam Wang
Senior contributions editor, Learning and Development

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