The former Chairman, Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. Ebenezer Adeleke, is one of the numerous professional stakeholders deeply worried by the spate of quackery about the pharmacy profession. He has a strong warning for the consuming public – to be wary of the dangers of patronising charlatans in the business.
Adeleke believes all over the world it is an integral part of the role of the pharmacist to promote and advocate for the function of the pharmacist in improving health in his community and indeed every corner of the world. He is supposed to help sensitise the public on drug usage while highlighting the impact and added value of the pharmacy profession to the general public.
On the recently concluded 89th Annual National Conference of the pharmaceutical society, he said it has been very impactful. “Pharmacy is one of the oldest professions in the country. You know the importance of the pharmaceutical industry to the economy of any country is huge. The emphasis has been laid that the Government should provide or allocate enough incentives to enable manufacturers provide products,” he said.
Without mincing words Adeleke looks at the reality of the moment – saying that if drugs are not readily available, Nigerians will be forced to patronise charlatans or roadside hawkers. But there is hope that all the impediments confronting the health care sector in the country generally can be effectively tackled by the Government and other stakeholders as soon as possible, he opines.
With the PSN conference still fresh on his mind Pharm. Adeleke believes pharmacists have been adequately advised through the convention to become more innovative and proactive. It would therefore seem that the pharmacy practice has undergone tremendous changes globally. So, as Pharmacists “we need to be abreast of the new technological advancements in the health sector. The patients on the other hand have become more knowledgeable, educating themselves on health matters.
“It is important as pharmacists to be in the forefront – counselling these patients and not the other way round. I am delighted that pharmaceutical education has been upgraded, especially with the approval of the Pharm.D programme. This will indeed enhance the training of pharmacists in the country, he said.
The Pharm.D programme obviously has suffered several postponements in the past but the pharmacists have been canvassing for the approval for more than 16 years. And Adeleke feels it is really long over-due. He said “I am aware that the programme is already running in UNIBEN, and I think University of Jos too. So I am very optimistic that it will commence soon in other tertiary institutions.
“The approval will transform pharmacy practice in Nigeria. It will ensure that pharmacists will become well trained in order to excel in the practice. I do believe that the parameters for the commencement of the programme have been clearly stated by the NUC. It is now left to the management of universities to fulfil those stated guidelines as approved by the NUC. I think it is going to be a six year course. In my view, if it is well implemented, it will enhance the image of the pharmacy profession in the country, he stated.
On the issue of efficient and effective drug distribution in the sector, the pharmacist stressed that there has been the challenge of chaotic drug distribution for years now while expressing the hope that drug distribution in the country will soon be streamlined. He said “the issues of who should import, distribute or do the wholesaling will be mapped out. We are very hopeful that with the support of every stakeholder the drug distribution structure will take effect from August 2017”. He however, emphasised that all stakeholders must be involved in this process.
“All pharmacists must put up a united front, in order that we can have an effective drug distribution channel in the country. This will certainly go a long way in curbing the issue of fake drugs in circulation. The community pharmacist for example, is the first point of call for patients not only in Nigeria, but most parts of the world. Every year, the community pharmacists are engaged in different training programmes to equip them so that they can effectively counsel patients and refer them where appropriate.” Adeleke stressed.
He said “Pharmacists nowadays have gone beyond only prescribing drugs. Well trained pharmacists can carry out simple testing and give advice to patients the best possible care, especially on what particular drugs to take. That is part of clinical pharmacy.”
Concerning ethics of the profession, the patent medicine dealers for instance might be trying to have a one stop shop by selling edible products alongside drugs. And Adeleke thinks there is nothing specifically against that, stressing that it is important that there should be an area created for that purpose .He alludes to the fact that this also happens in various parts of the world. “The key thing here is that the pharmacist must have to be present at the point of drug dispensation, because, that is the area of specialisation.”
Stakeholders generally call on the Government to give more recognition and pay more attention to the profession seeing that pharmacists spend so much on training and equipping themselves, but there is little done to motivate them. As a result, some pharmacists leave the profession along the way. Another challenge is the constitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) which is being delayed for quite some time.
There is also the issue of foreign exchange; it is difficult for manufacturers to get access to foreign exchange, and if the Government does not give the necessary incentives, the drugs will become out of reach. At such instance many may be forced to patronise quacks to the detriment of the general public.
There is a belief that a controlled drug distribution system is one of the ways to curb the existence of quacks. Also, the public should be sufficiently educated and conscious to be able to determine those who are real drug dealers and quacks in the system. “I will never buy any drug from the quacks, no matter the way and the skills they employ to market their drugs. So Nigerians should be warned as well not to patronise quacks. Instead, Nigerians should begin to ask questions about the kind of drugs they buy. For instance, are the drugs you are buying NAFDAC approved; what is the source of these drugs?” Adeleke queried.
Continuing, Pharm. Adeleke narrated: “I visited a store and found out that certain drug syrup that is supposed to be stored in a higher temperature (fridge) was put on the counter. This is quite wrong, as the efficacy of the drug is already dead. For some innocent patients, they will not be aware of this and so will fall victim. Some patients may even find it cheaper buying the same drugs and not knowing its efficacy. But because I am a pharmacist, I am aware. So I believe that continuous education is important. The public needs to become aware of the right places to get genuine, effective and efficacious pharmaceutical products and services. The law enforcement agents, including PSN, NAFDAC among other regulatory agencies, should be strengthened to carry out their core responsibilities.”
Looking at the future of the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria, the PSN fellow said that the world is becoming very competitive, pointing out that patients are also becoming more health conscious; therefore information has become a very key component in the sector. “Patients are spending hours on the internet and other platforms looking for information on health care matters. So, I would advise that as pharmacists we will need to step up and become conscious of the ever changing world around us. It is important as a pharmacist to continue to get trained and educated on the new trends as it relates to pharmaceutical practice.” Adeleke concluded.