Published On: Mon, Aug 11th, 2014

Experts urge NAPharm. to boost Pharmacy with herbal medicine

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        Prominent Nigerians and stakeholders in the health industry have unanimously saddled the newly inaugurated Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm.) with the responsibility of bridging the gap between Pharmacy and the scientific basis of medicine, especially herbal medicine.

The experts made the call at the official inauguration of NAPharm., held at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos on 26 June, 2014, as they witnessed the induction of 48 distinguished pharmacists as foundation Fellows of the Academy.

Dignitaries who made the call include former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; President, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm.) and Chairman, Juli Plc, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi; Emeritus Professor and Consultant Nephrologist, Olujimi Oladapo Akinkugbe; and President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Olumide Akintayo,

In his remarks as the chairman of the occasion, Gen. Gowon, who expressed his delight to be present at the event, tasked the Academy with the job of fighting fake drugs, by upholding the legacy of the late heroine of Pharmacy, Prof. Dora Akunyili, for whom he led the audience to observe a minute of silence.

He further urged the eminent pharmacists to provide a platform for professional excellence, interdisciplinary collaboration in the health sciences, mentorship programmes, and exclusive wellness initiatives for the citizens.

“It is high time pharmacy moved from ordinary buying and selling of drugs to new areas in the profession. What the Babalawo (traditional healer) is doing, there might be something good in it,” he said.

Reminiscing on his early days as a youth, the former Head of State recalled how he followed his father to the farm on several occasions, and how the father had showed him several medicinal plants which could be developed for human consumption, many of which he confessed to have forgotten today.

The retired general subsequently implored the Academy and the newly-inducted Fellows not to relent in their efforts towards the production, accessibility and affordability of world class drugs, including vaccines and anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), in Nigeria.

In his keynote address, titled “Economic Blueprint towards Health System Transformation”, Emeritus Professor Akinkugbe, who was the guest speaker at the event, called for interdisciplinary collaboration in the health sciences.

Akinkugbe said the disconnect between herbalists and orthodox doctors was the bane of medicine today. He paid tribute to China for recognising the importance of the synergy of various disciplines, which led to the development of Artemisinin for the treatment of malaria.

The consultant nephrologist said the Academy was bound to be a welcome link between apothecary and the scientific basis of medicine, especially herbal medicine.

Commending the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s efforts in the recognition of herbal specialists and alternative medicine practitioners, Akinkugbe said this was a giant step in the right direction, because it had become necessary for orthodox medical practitioners to discard their long-standing intellectual haughtiness and partner with other practitioners in the development of medications by proven merit.

“As I speak, there is a small group of Nigerians put together in Abeokuta, looking into the potential of medicinal properties of certain herbs in the treatment of diabetes. The beauty of that small group, which, for my sins I happen to chair, is that it is made up of clinicians, diabetologists, biologists, biochemists and senior scientists from faculties of Pharmacy in existing universities and top researchers from the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research.

“We have a generous area of land proposed for planting herbs and foliage, experimental animal facilities and laboratories for conducting appropriate research leading to the characterisation of these variegated leafy preparations.”

Continuing, he said, “An Academy such as yours should take more than marginal interest in encouraging such a development. This well-selected motley group will hopefully fulfil society’s highest expectations in bringing the gown nearer to town and getting all scientific hands on deck to tie many unresolved loose ends in our nation’s medical armamentarium.”

Akinkugbe further noted that Nigerian scientists had gone beyond the stage of inspired guesswork, adding that Pharmacy must expand its coast beyond the ivory tower of “the buy and sell” mentality to be more involved in original work.

“I am convinced that herein lies the first challenge of Nigeria’s Academy of Pharmacy,” he said.

The former don concluded his speech by envisioning the day when clinicians, young and old, pharmaceutical gurus, herbalists and traditional medicine men would congregate around a bedside, each espousing his or her art, replacing inspired guesswork and incantations with evidence-based approach to rational therapy, and from which they would all depart with the sense of fulfilment that comes from making worthy contributions to advancing the frontiers of knowledge and improving the health status of our people.

In his own contribution, Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi, noted that in order for Pharmacy to participate meaningfully in the current national economic arrangement, there was an urgent need to provide a platform for creating a new paradigm to elevate the relevance of the practice of the profession at all levels, particularly in the areas of improved patient care and international best practice, adding that the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy was the platform.

In his words, “The Academy will, inter alia, provide expert opinion and thought leadership in the education and practice of Pharmacy. The Academy will provide a platform to influence national and state policies, which will enable the fulfilment of the vision, the mission, the rights and obligations of Pharmacy.

“The Academy will network with similar academies within and outside Nigeria. It will also partner with relevant regulatory bodies and Association to ensure high ethical standards in the practice of the profession and in the war against fake, adulterated and substandard products in the health sector.”

The NAPharm. president further assured that the Academy would champion the cause of interdisciplinarity, by working steadfastly to promote harmony and team spirit among all members of the health team and other relevant professions, so that every patient enjoys wholesome and beneficial health care.

Also speaking, Pharm. Olumide Akintayo said as experts in medicines, pharmacists had always been known as accessible and trusted dispensers of advice and treatment. He said the contributions of pharmacists to health care were developing in new ways to support patients in their use of medicines and as part of the clinical decision-making across the range of ailments.

“Professions exist to serve the society; therefore our mission as pharmacists is to address the needs of the society. Our duty is to work and ensure that the added value we bring to health care and our potentials are taken into account and respected by policy-makers and other health professionals,” Akintayo said.

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Experts urge NAPharm. to boost Pharmacy with herbal medicine