Unethical practices have over time been deep-seated in the pharmacy profession – giving rise to a nasty befoulment that has festered to this day. The conduct of a few unscrupulous elements among superintendent pharmacists may further drag the image of the noble profession in the mud if authorities in the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, and indeed stakeholders in the industry do not act fast to stem the ugly situation. The obsession to exchange pharmacy license for money among superintendent pharmacists across the country is currently on the increase, and must be stopped before the integrity of the profession is completely ruined.
It is well known that a good number of registered pharmacists collude with pharmaceutical traders most of whom are non professionals, to practice a concept popularly known as “Register and Go”. This illegal act and the abuse of pharmacy license when translated, simply implies that superintendent pharmacists enter into agreement with traders to rent their licenses for purposes of products or pharmacy premises registration for a fee, while jettisoning the day to day operational responsibilities of those organisations as required by law.
More worrisome is that disgruntled elements in the profession will stop at nothing to continue perpetrating this illegality no matter how hard the Pharmacists Council tries to mitigate such ills among practitioners. For instance, despite the PCN rule which mandates that owners of pharmacy premises be registered pharmacists, some unscrupulous members of the profession have been incorporating businesses and selling same to traders in order to beat PCN rules.
We view this phenomenon as dangerous because it runs against the letters of section 2 of the Code of Ethics of Pharmacy profession in Nigeria, which provides that, “In every pharmacy, there should be a superintendent pharmacist in personal control of the pharmacy. He shall be primarily responsible for the observance of proper standards of conduct in connection with its operations”. The fuller implication of this code is that part-time services by superintendent pharmacists, let alone outright abdication of responsibilities, has no locus standi in the pharmacy profession and therefore illegal.
The duties associated with that position entails more than product and premises registration. It is a position carrying full time responsibility and accountability. The job description of superintendent pharmacists puts practitioners in a key leadership and management position. Practitioners are expected to oversee for instance, that sales and dispensing of drugs are carried out in line with international best practices. It is partly as a result of this kind of conduct that the pharmaceutical industry is lagging behind in achieving its full potentials in the Nigerian economy. Such unethical practices by any registered pharmacists must therefore not be condoned.
Indeed, what is expected of superintendent pharmacists, is to position themselves as agents of change in their little corners. They should by obligation maintain and adhere strictly to a sound system of controls in order to promote appropriate pharmaceutical care to the public. They are expected to expose acts that could tarnish the image of the profession irrespective of who is involved. As section 4 (e) of the Code of Ethics of the profession provides, “A pharmacist has the duty to observe the law, to uphold the dignity and honour of the profession and to accept its ethical principles.
He should not engage in any activity that will bring discredit to the profession and should expose without fear or favour illegal or unethical conduct that affects the profession.” Exchange of license for money is a serious professional misconduct that ought to attract grave punishment because it could have direct consequence on the lives of the public.
However, we commend PCN for rejigging its rules to accommodate the dynamics of professional misconduct which may arise from time to time as exemplified by the mandatory ownership of pharmacies by registered pharmacists in the country. It is also important for the authorities in PCN to note that perpetrators of such misconducts are determined to engage other options available to them to ensure that the illegality thrives. Therefore, we recommend that the council strengthens its surveillance strategies and be more proactive in dealing with these negativities.