Dr. Nkere Ebube is the President of Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA). In this interview with PharmaTimes Correspondent, GABRIEL IFINNWA, he proffers solutions to the increasing high cost of drugs in the country.
What is the mandate of NAPPSA?
Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas, Inc. (NAPPSA) is an umbrella organisation of Nigerian pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, allied scientists and academia in the Americas. Our mission is to serve as a forum for interaction between Nigerian Pharmacists, Pharmaceutical Scientists and related healthcare professionals in a quest to improve research and development of drugs, education and pharmacy care in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world. Specifically, NAPPSA seeks to enhance the educational, professional, and entrepreneurial empowerment of Nigerian pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and other health scientists including healthcare professionals in the Diasporas and in Nigeria. Also, NAPPSA seeks to work with interested parties in Nigeria and the Diasporas to promote comprehensive, integrated and strategic course of action to transform the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors in Nigeria.
Would you say that the purpose of setting up the NAPPSA foundation has been achieved?
NAPPSA Foundation was established as a philanthropic arm of the Nigeria Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas, which is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organisation. The purpose of the Foundation is to seek funding and resources to enhance the mission and vision of the parent organisation as pertains to philanthropy. For example, providing support for continuing education and training programmes for pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, Scholarships for students enrolled in pharmacy degree programmes and graduate programmes in basic or allied pharmaceutical sciences; support for healthcare delivery initiative including medical missions in Nigeria, advocacy programmes to enhance pharmaceutical manufacturing, research & development, pharmacy education & practice in Nigeria and the Americas, etc. The NAPPSA Foundation was created few years ago. I would certainly say with utmost confidence that NAPPSA is well on its way to achieve the purpose of setting up the Foundation in terms of having a structure in place to support NAPPSA’s philanthropic goals. Of note is NAPPSA’s partnership with distributors/wholesalers in the United States of America – a relationship that has facilitated award of a number of scholarships to Nigerian pharmacy students, supported initiatives to promote the Pharm. D programme in Nigeria, procurement of medical supplies in support of the Ebola crisis in Nigeria, and also supported medical missions in Nigeria in terms of medicines and medical supplies.
Although the Foundation is still quite young, prior experience and relationships are being leveraged to strategically position it to do a lot of good work in future to advance the ideals of the organisation. Hence, I expect the Foundation to play a significant role in advancing wellness, promoting inter-professional networking and interactions, pharmacy education, pharmaceutical research and development and targeted healthcare delivery initiatives in Nigeria and the Americas.
What is the objective of hosting the NAPPSA Annual Scientific Conference and Exposition 2017?
The theme of our 2017 Annual Conference is “Advancing Pharmaceutical Care and Wellness in a Changing Economy.” The conference would share best practices in pharmacy care as well as emerging trends in pharmaceutical sciences, provide network and access to educational programming devoted to advancing health through pharmacotherapeutics and pharmaceutical innovations, emphasise entrepreneurial empowerment geared towards enhancing the pharmaceutical sector including drug manufacturing, research & development and efficient drug distribution system in Nigeria, and promoting wellness. A thriving pharmaceutical sector can contribute significantly to Nigerian GDP, create jobs across different functional areas, strengthen the middle class, and drive down the cost of healthcare delivery by making drugs available and affordable.
What are your achievements as President of Nigerian Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA)?
NAPPSA has accomplished quite a lot under my leadership. However, I would not like to take sole credits for these accomplishments considering that, like most organisations, some key initiatives overlap from one administration to the other. I would rather like to focus on what we have accomplished together as an organisation. NAPPSA has played a key role in promoting pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical education in Nigeria, provided continuing education and training opportunities to Nigerian pharmacists and pharmaceutical sciences in Nigeria and the Americas, played leadership role in promoting and supporting Pharm.D programme in Nigeria, including curriculum and implementation programmes, provided networking and research collaboration opportunities between schools of pharmacy in Nigeria and in United States; provided clinical pharmacy preceptorship to designated schools of pharmacy in Nigeria, created framework and roadmap to promote entrepreneurship (assisted many Nigerian pharmacists in the Diasporas to open their own businesses), supported the Ebola crisis by providing medical supplies, etc.
One of the highlights of our accomplishments that I am most proud of is nurturing our young professionals to become leaders of tomorrow, to think outside the box and acquire requisite skill set to be competitive in evolving global healthcare infrastructure in a changing economy.
How would you describe the relationship between NAPPSA and other regulatory health agencies in Nigeria?
NAPPSA has a close relationship with NAFDAC and Food & Drugs Administration through constant information and resource exchanges. We invite them to our annual conferences as key stakeholders. They participate fully and engage in dialogues and discussions on key policy issues. Several members of NAPPSA at various times have provided services to NAFDAC and Food & Drugs Admin on advisory basis. NAPPSA continues to serve as conduit for networking opportunities amongst regulatory agencies in Nigeria and in the Americas for information and knowledge exchanges based on best practices.
How would you compare the practice of pharmacy in the United States with what we have in Nigeria?
Pharmacy practice in Nigeria and United States has evolved over many years. The major difference is that they are at different evolutionary states. However, the ultimate objective remains the same – patient care. I feel that the primary difference is that the regulations governing the practice of pharmacy in the United States are well defined and enforceable; whereas in Nigeria the issue is enforcement of adopted regulations. For example, you cannot procure a prescription drug without the review and approval of a pharmacist, whereas a street drug peddler can sell prescription drugs to you in Nigeria. Also, hospitals and clinics in the United States can operate pharmacies but must have a pharmacist on duty. Furthermore, the different health professionals understand the boundaries of their defined roles and they work collaboratively to achieve a patient centred care. I am optimistic that the practice of Pharmacy in Nigeria will continue to evolve, particularly with the introduction of the Pharm. D programme, which will ensure that the pharmacists receive requisite advanced training necessary for leadership role in patient-centred healthcare delivery.
How best do you think Nigeria can tackle the increasing high cost of drugs?
Nigeria needs to invest in the growth of the pharmaceutical sector; specifically promote generic drug manufacturing that meets international standards. Incentives should be given to indigenous pharmaceutical companies to manufacture high quality and affordable medicines. The national drug policy and essential drug list is obsolete and should be updated to reflect inherent prevalent disease states, and advances in new therapeutic armaments. The government must encourage growth of private-public partnership, provide infrastructure, regulations, and invest in research and development of APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) and raw materials to support the growth of the pharmaceutical sector. This would create jobs, drive innovation and produce high quality and affordable medicines.
What is your view on prescription drugs with generic names?
Nigeria should promote the use of generic drugs provided they meet national and international standards in terms of safety and efficacy. Nonetheless, there are instances whereby the brand may be preferred over generic drugs due to differences in bio-availability of the drug and patient safety. This is particularly true for drugs with narrow therapeutic index. Overall, the generic drugs are relatively cheaper and more affordable compared to the brands. They are designed to be bio-equivalent with the brand, and exhibit the same rate and extent of absorption.