Science is an essential component of undergraduate pharmacy education

It was with incredulity that I read the reported comments of Scotland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer on the removal of science from the undergraduate pharmacy curriculum (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014:293:234
). Given the enormous challenges of future healthcare provision, with escalating costs of medicines, an aging population, growing antimicrobial resistance and inadequate treatment owing to non-compliance, pharmacists have a huge contribution to make to healthcare in the 21st century.

However, this contribution must be evidence based. Without a thorough understanding of the underlying science, pharmacists would become third-rate doctors, dispensing medicines along with parroted advice, with no depth, resulting, before long, in a complete lack of credibility and the demise of the profession. These comments suggest that Scott has no contact with modern pharmacy courses, which have been developing rapidly since the General Pharmaceutical Council published its standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists in 2011. These standards demand an integrated approach, where science and practice are now blended in a seamless way, in order for students to fully appreciate the importance of science to their practice and to their provision of pharmaceutical care.

Courses are evolving continuously and the first graduates of the fully integrated courses are yet to appear. Of course, we need evidence that these graduates will be better equipped than current ones. However, what is indisputable is that, without the underpinning science, they most certainly would be incapable of fulfilling such roles.

Brian Furman

Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology

University of Strathclyde


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 20 September 2014, Vol 293, No 7828;293(7828):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066479

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