As Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria in Oyo State, how would you say the pharmaceutical profession in your state is faring?
Being the Chairman of the PSN Oyo State is one challenging responsibility as it expands your daily activities which are already enlarged with having to cope with one’s professional calling and practices. By and large, it is an opportunity to contribute my quota to the development of Pharmacy profession. The practice environment is quite a challenging space. We have got to cope with many issues confronting members and their welfare. The current situation of slim government resources are affecting our members in the state government employment, many of them have been stagnated on a level for more than 15years. Many of them are expected to be in level 17 by now and all efforts to push through the government have been a big task.
They are hopeful and their morale is still intact doing their best. On the aspect of those of them in community practice, especially in Ibadan, they have to cope with the ugly and the deadly blow of a well seated open drug market which daily erodes the value of professionally manned premises as a lot of patients are price sensitive. They buy all manners of fake products from open markets which pharmacies would not stock but have to defend why their prices are higher. For those in academia, they also have their bit as they are also clamouring for professional allowance as they are not just teachers but professionals. Those of us in the manufacturing sector too are not having the benefit of government patronage which should have been a good boost to their production facilities located in Oyo State. The government bulk procurement of drugs has been alien to the system in the last few years. They also have to cope with the stiff competition and prevalence of imported products everywhere.
In recent times, there has been a conversation shift in the Pharma -Industry towards innovation. Even the last PSN Annual National Conference, which was held in your state, had a theme centred on “Innovative Disruption”. In your opinion, would you say that this conversation shift is leading to a paradigm shift in the pharmaceutical industry, and in what ways can we see this innovative shift manifesting in the Pharmaceutical industry?
Yes, innovation is the mother of all advancement in any practice or profession. The conversation is the major engagement we need now if our practice must be positioned for the next level. We have experienced different innovative disruptions on other spheres of life, it is only a matter of time, and we shall have a sweeping impact of digitisation in pharmacy practice hence the need to refocus Nigerian pharmacists and Pharmacy profession in Nigeria. The age of automated drug dispensing machines is here, smart business models, automated supply system and complexity of practice space all needing pharmacists to be properly positioned. With this shift we expect to see a lot of IT based environment in pharmacy practice. We are going to be having great reduction on the cost of regulation, cost of business and a well-managed pharmaceutical industry delivering on its mandate for quality health care delivery in Nigeria. We need to continually engage in this type of conversation as a way to make our practice comparable with the global standards.
You founded the WhatsApp group “Pharmacists’ Affairs”, what inspired you to do that?
The whatsApp platform, “Pharmacists’Affairs” became necessary to bridge the gaps observed in the way pharmacists relate amongst themselves and how to diminish the time to get our challenges resolved. I was motivated to see that many challenges suffered by colleagues are actually based on some level of ignorance or sort. The platform therefore tried to bring all across board together to engage in discussion and conversation that would be of great help to pharmacists where ever they are located. I am however, satisfied that the platform is meeting that goal and one platform that has pharmacists across the divides of geographic and practice areas. Many pharmacists have pleasant testimonies of how they have benefited from the discussions which better positioned them for positive practice outcomes.
What challenges have you faced managing that WhatsApp group of talented and honourable professionals?
One major challenge I face managing great colleagues who are managers in their own right and successful professional is the way I have to relate with each person on any issue at hand. I have to be large hearted, broadminded and never perturbed by any form of untoward behaviour of some of us. To be successful therefore, interpersonal relationship is the strength. I respect the view of everyone; never paint any opinion as wrong, and above all, a good manager of men. I can say that this is one assignment I enjoyed since the platform was founded and happy that we are making progress in the pharmacy world.
One topic that was recently discussed on the “Pharmacists’ Affairs” platform was “Mission to Save Community Practice”. So far, so good, what insights can you share from that conversation that can help Community Pharmacies stay in business?
Success in community practice is a topical issue that caught the interest of most pharmacists. This is the case as we have the platform extended to the 4th group as a result of many pharmacists wanting to be part of the discussion. Since the platform cut across pharmacists in all the technical groups of PSN, it also afforded those intending to retire to community pharmacy a glimpse of what lay ahead.
Community pharmacy practice is about the only technical arm that pharmacists can set up their business and be their own boss. However, the realisation that many pharmacies are being offered for sale across the states caught my curiosity to engage discussion around the subject with the aim of smoothening the rough edges and making pharmacists better off in their business engagement in community practice.
The poll that was set up based on feedbacks was revealing and formed the basis of our discussions so far. One major observation that was drawn from the discussions is that factors responsible for success are with the pharmacists and the activities of the regulatory agencies. The environment of practice have a lot to do with the outcome of any venture hence it was not an absurdity to realise that as much as 55% of the challenges are contributed to by regulatory gaps. The pharmacists’ preparedness for a business in community practice showed a 45% contribution, meaning that we can’t approach business in community practice just as graduates from Pharmacy schools. The discussions so far underpinned the fact that the casual approach to opening community pharmacy is no longer an acceptable position for anyone looking for success and sustainability in the practice. The need for pharmacists to have proper business orientation, trainings and additional skills in business management is a must to change the current narratives.
Our experience also showed that regulatory activities are both the responsibility of the regulators and the business operators. Responsive regulatory activities and political relevance have a lot to do to bring the desired change. For pharmacists wanting to debut in community pharmacy, there must firstly be a sincerity of intention, they must appreciate that monies are not just on the table, a paradigm shift from being product focused but patient oriented, and take pharmaceutical care service as a defining marketing edge. Pharmacists would no longer make good impact just opening premises and expecting just any staff man the pharmacy without a pharmacist’s input in the service rendering, and expecting a good outcome.
I have to also stress that an attitude to think having retail community pharmacy as a leg of additional income for pharmacists in other areas of practice without adequate and proper preparedness will always result in failed business engagement; although, regulation must also be increased to protect professional practice in community pharmacy environment.