Stakeholders in the pharmacy profession are unanimous in their opinions that abuse of pharmacy license by practitioners remains a major factor militating against the development of the profession in the country. Popular opinion agrees there is the need to confront the challenge using multi-pronged approach such as: re-orientation of young pharmacists, enforcement of relevant laws by PCN, mandatory capturing of personal data of all members, funding, collaborative efforts by practitioners and the entire stakeholders in the industry, as well as adoption of the whistle blower strategy, etc.
Recall that upon graduation from the universities in the 1960’s up to late 1980’s, pharmacists got their dream jobs with minimum effort. But all that changed when the Nigerian economy began to head south in the early 1990’s, and in its wake potential employers of labour were adversely affected. But, as the number of pharmacy graduates grew there was no corresponding increase in the number of opportunities to engage them meaningfully.
For a number of them who ventured into community pharmacy practice, lack of access to soft loans contributed in stifling their efforts. There was also the challenge of competing with non-professionals who had amassed enormous resources and holding sway in that line of business, and that may have ostensibly instigated the kind of survivalist impulse that led to this menace.
Pharmacy is a rewarding career anywhere in the world, and products of the profession must not be neglected for obvious reasons. They are a crop of professionals well trained to add value to the society in a positive sense. The license they carry could be converted to a means of livelihood in a negative way especially if the holder is allowed to experience hopelessness.
Therefore, the Federal Government owes the country a duty to design policies and programmes that will aid in the employment of pharmacy graduates soon after graduation. The approval of Pharm D programme in the country is a step in the right direction. However, government should also create conducive environment for investment in the pharmacy sector to thrive. The PCN on its part should re-invent and re-energize its operations, and eliminate where necessary seeming restrictive clauses in its policies that tend to pigeonhole the practitioners.
For instance, the council should take a hard look at the current policy which appears to make retail pharmacy the exclusive preserve of registered pharmacists because of its far reaching consequences in the industry and the peculiarity of Nigeria’s investment climate. Instead, PCN should intensify efforts in designing policies that will open up investment in this strategic sector to accommodate potential investors while it focuses on strict observance to lay down procedures. We believe that involvement of non-professionals in this regard would not diminish the objective of the policy but guarantee the strengthening of the prospects inherent in it.
Investments through the retail chain platform of pharmaceutical products have proven to be an effective way of providing employment opportunities for pharmacists. It is important to note however, that in many advanced countries some of the successful drivers of this kind of business are non- pharmacists. For instance, the United States-based Wal-Mart stores Inc. is a typical example of a company that runs a retail chain business with interest in diverse areas including drugstores, and offering job opportunities to over 2.3 million employees from different professional callings. Its founder, Sam Walton, was not a pharmacist but a graduate of Economics who deployed his business acumen effectively in running affairs of the company to the enviable height of the world largest corporation.
And for Wal-Mart to run drugstores in its retail chain services in the United States the company would have met the requisite conditions to operate and that is what Nigeria should emulate. We also suggest that the late Prof. Dora Akunyili’s idea of prohibiting issuance of license for the importation of select molecules after a period of ten years had elapsed, should be dusted and given a second look. That policy as originally conceived could spur domestic investment in the sector, enhance industrialisation and in time, significantly benefit the pharmacists.
Similarly, PG-MAN should take inventory of those molecules that factories in Nigeria already have the capacity to manufacture and meet national demand with a view to lobbying the National Assembly to enact legislation for blacklisting them from import. By so doing domestic manufacturers would be encouraged while their businesses will be protected against adverse competitions from India and China.