Drug counterfeiting and the recent formal approval of the PharmD degree have continued to make the rounds across the health/pharmaceutical sectors, and among major stakeholders. The National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Albert Kelong Alkali, in this interview with PharmaTimes GABRIEL IFINNWA, spoke extensively on the activities of the association as it relates to these issues and other developments in Nigeria’s pharma industry. Excerpts:
As President of the ACPN, what has been your major achievement?
As National Chairman my major achievements have been in the areas of trainings (antibiotic resistance prevention, Respiratory diseases, body language and the use of hand writing in fraud detection, etc.) of our colleagues in collaboration with some major pharmaceutical companies and using technology to beam these trainings to other locations. Capacity building is key in our mission statement, we are working with banks to increase access to working capital and funds for remodelling /IT infrastructure for our members. Again, we are working with Ultra Logistics Company (ULCO) to enhance community pharmacy practice; we have developed a national data base of community pharmacies and Community Pharmacy practitioners which will soon be linked to satellite for easy location of pharmacies. We have brought on board some states that have not been active in ACPN activities. We will by the special grace of God be moving to our National Secretariat soon.
We have been able to submit memos and position paper to the senate committee on health on the amendment of NAFDAC laws and also written a proposal to the Management of NHIS on the way forward in the implementation of the scheme because the scheme as it is now leave less to be desired (especially on the non-participation of community pharmacies in the scheme).
What is your view concerning growing fears among young community pharmacists?
There should be no fear whatsoever; but I think the major problem with our younger colleagues is the fear of strict supervision by older colleagues that demand more value addition from them. Younger ones must be ready to pay their dues in the practice for the betterment of the profession and clients/patients they serve. Our younger colleagues register premises that they do not stay in to superintend, and this results in unwholesome practice.
What are the challenges facing pharmacy practice in Nigeria, and how can they be tackled?
The major problems facing Community Pharmacy Practice in Nigeria is the presence of quacks and poor practice environment due to inadequate regulation. For the Practice to be better quackery/unregistered premises owned by individuals that have little or no knowledge of pharmacy must as a matter of urgency be eliminated because they are the source of most fake, substandard and counterfeit drugs. The regulatory authorities are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems; they need to do more and we are still engaging them. I will in this New Year be paying advocacy visits to the law enforcement agencies on the need for them to support the fight to sanitise our practice environment. The general public must be wary of buying prescription drugs from quacks; this is a very important public enlightenment issue. On a wider level, pharmacy practice in Nigeria especially at hospital facility levels is bedevilled by the lack collaboration with our colleagues in the health sector on the shift in focus of our practice from product centred to patient centred care, and poor facilities and practice settings, the pharmacy department in most institutions need to be redesigned.
How best do you think the issue of fake drugs and counterfeit medicines can be curbed?
The recalcitrant issues of fake and counterfeit drugs can be tackled in Nigeria simply by government listening to what we have been saying for more than ten years now; government should observe the extant laws that set up NADFDAC. These laws prescribe the requirement for the person that should be the Director General of NAFDAC; you cannot give what you do not have, and the law clearly says someone with a sound knowledge of pharmacy, not a subject in pharmacy. The Nigerian public is on daily basis being exposed to fake and counterfeit products because government has refused to do the right thing. Government as a matter of urgency should appoint the Director General of NAFDAC and also reconstitute the boards of Pharmacist council of Nigeria, and NAFDAC. On our part we have continually asked the general public to visit premises that have the Green cross emblem obtained from the ACPN. The emblem is a clear sign that the general public will obtain pharmaceutical services from a registered Pharmacist and genuine drugs. I will like PharmaTimes to support us in advertising this emblem.
Some have alleged that the structure of the boards of Federal health institutions in the country does not cater for pharmacists. How true is this?
The truth is that we have not been adequately represented in the past in the board of health institutions, but I strongly believe that the present government will do the right thing considering its stands against corrupt practices. Drug is key to cure, so to deprive health institutions of the services of a pharmacist by not appointing one on its board is a disservice.
What is your view on PharmD approval by the NUC?
PharmD approval by the NUC is the best thing that has happened to the Pharmacy Profession because it is the way to go all over the world. In everything we do we are always looking for improvement. Pharmacy Practice has changed for the better all over the world and Nigeria as a responsible global player must join the positive trends. At this point I must pay glowing tribute to the past and present President of the PSN for making it happen.
What is your view about some hospitals that employ un-qualified pharmacists?
My view on hospitals without the services of a qualified Pharmacist is that it should be a clinic and not be registered as a hospital.