In this exclusive interview with ADEBAYO OLADEJO, Pharm. Susan Olusola Ayetoro, chairperson of Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) in Kwara State, discusses the activities of lady pharmacists in the state, while also calling for stiffer penalties for drug counterfeiters in the country. Excerpts:
Tell us a bit about yourself, including your academic background
I am Pharm (Mrs) Susan Olusola Ayetoro. I am a Merit Award Winner of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Kwara State Branch, and Fellow of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (FPCpharm).I am from Osun State. I got married to an Ondo State man. I had both my primary and secondary education in Ogbomoso and Ibadan (both in Oyo State), respectively. After that, I proceeded to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife, Osun State, to study Pharmacy.
I had my B.Pharm (Hons) in 1986, after which I did my internship (pupil pharmacist) at Trex Chemists, Ibadan, and my NYSC programme at Children Specialist Hospital, Ministry of Health, Ilorin, Kwara State.
Since your election as ALPs chairperson in Kwara State, what changes have you brought to the association?
First, I will like to acknowledge the full support of the executives and members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Kwara State, for their consistent encouragement and backing. ALPs Kwara, as an interest group, has been doing its best to support PSN in all the state programmes and national conferences. There is enthusiasm and commitment of members to all ALPs programmes at the national and state levels. We are doing our best to assist the First Lady of Kwara State in her project, LEAH Charity Foundation and we go along with her anytime there is a campaign, the current one being the Cancer Awareness Programme for women in the state.
ALPs Kwara is a registered women’s group in the Ministry of Women Affairs and it also collaborates with other women professionals in the state. Most of our outreaches are usually covered by state electronic media and widely read in the local and national newspapers.
Presently, what are the major challenges facing lady pharmacists in your state?
The major challenge we are facing as ALPs in the state is funding. Most of our activities are funded by members, as God grants us the grace to do them, and we get the full support of our men in PSN Kwara State. This notwithstanding, we are moving forward and not discouraged.
In terms of membership participation, have you been getting the needed cooperation?
Membership participation is wonderful because they are always ready to come for programs and outreaches, no matter their age or status in their places of work. Our programmes are very interesting and our members are eager to make an impact in the lives of people positively. In view of this, we embark on so many programmes, such as school children deworming exercises, career talks for secondary school students, education of teenagers and youths on the implication of drug misuse and abuse, lectures on HIV/AIDS and donation of first aid boxes to secondary schools, just to mention a few.
We also collaborate with the Federation of Sickle Cell Clubs in the state, holding meetings with them and routinely donating drugs and Insecticide-treated mosquito nets. We also visit and make donations of drugs, food items and clothing to the children reception centre of the Ministry of Social Welfare, children with special needs and prison inmates.
What would you say about the campaign against fake drugs in the country?
It is disheartening that most of the medicines counterfeited are those used for the treatment of life-threatening conditions and have high public health impact. These include antimalarial drugs, antibiotics, antihypertensive and antiretroviral drugs. Selling or distributing fake drugs is a health-related crime, which poses a great threat to public health and the economy of the nation; therefore, pharmacists should be involved in the campaign against it.
In Kwara State, the Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee of the PSN has been collaborating with the government’s taskforce on fake and counterfeit drugs. They do regular inspection of premises and refer serious cases to NAFDAC for necessary action. NAFDAC also does routine post-marketing surveillance and mops up substandard/fake or counterfeit medicines displayed.
However, innovation and the use of cutting-edge technology, in combination with regulatory measures, have improved detection of fake drugs. Such innovations include the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS), which is free, easy, simple, available anywhere there is a mobile network and places the power to detect counterfeit products in the hands of the consumers.
Additionally, public enlightenment, through the print and electronic media, has been sustained in the campaign against fake drugs. Pharmacovigilance has been helpful also.
Many people have canvassed for stiffer penalties for drug counterfeiters. What’s your take on this?
It is a crime against humanity for anyone to knowingly procure and distribute fake or counterfeit drugs that can be detrimental to people’s health in the quest for profit making. In fact, the consequences of fake drugs also include loss of money on the part of the consumers because whatever money invested in buying fake drugs is a loss. Many pharmaceutical companies are also deprived of their profits, due to the unjust competition from counterfeiters, which may result in the collapse of some of the companies. In view of these, stiffer penalties should truly be meted out to drug counterfeiters.
What are those things you hope to achieve before the end of your tenure as ALPs chairperson?
By the grace of God, some of the important projects I hope to embark on before the end of my tenure as chairperson include: Mass enlightenment on the pharmacy profession among secondary school students in Kwara State. The programme aims at educating the students more on what the pharmacy profession represents and its importance.
I also hope to increase membership participation in all our meetings and programmes.
What is your advice to young pharmacists who are willing to come into the practice?
The young ones out there should know that our top priority in pharmacy profession is not money making, but saving lives. We, pharmacists, are men of honour and we tread that path always. So the thinking of adding value to people’s lives should be the most paramount in their minds. We also need to take the issue of fake drugs seriously. All hands must be on deck to tackle and curtail this menace of fake drugs in our society, at all cost.