Published On: Tue, May 26th, 2015

Patent medicine vendors indispensable, says PCN

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Chairman of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo has said that, to consistently meet the drug needs of Nigerians, patent medicine stores are indispensable .

Speaking at the three-day education summit organised by the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm.) in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the PCN which held at the University of Lagos Guest House and Conference Centre, Akoka on 22 April, Nwankwo explained that such sub-cadre was essential to support pharmacists in the onerous task of meeting their obligations to the community.

He added that his stance was “not so much out of love for the vendors but out of concern for the council’s responsibility to the nation.”

The PCN boss further remarked that while he was aware that many pharmacists would be repulsed by his seeming endorsement, especially considering his office as the chairman of the PCN, there was no denying that patent medicine dealers were indispensable in the present circumstances.

“Current statistics show that only about 25 per cent of our 774 local government areas have a pharmacist; yet their residents need basic medicines,” Nwankwo noted.

He said rather than denounce patent medicine dealers, pharmacists must “come up with an appropriate training model for them and then go on to recruit, train, relocate and regulate them to provide the intended limited services in the rural and remote places where pharmacists cannot presently serve.”

He also added that “our profession has a responsibility to provide medicines and medical supplies to the entire population of Nigeria. Unfortunately, we are not doing so. WHO guidelines in this area require countries to have a pharmacist to population of 1 to 2,300 persons. In Nigeria, we presently have about 19,000 pharmacists for a population of 168 million people – a far cry from the ideal.”

Pharm. Nwankwo’s pronouncement echoes a similar call made by Dr Moyosore Adejumo, Director of Pharmaceutical Services in Lagos State Ministry of Health, recently.

Speaking at The Panel, an annual entrepreneurial summit for young pharmacists organised by Shyne and Cloe Consulting, Adejumo had declared that it was wrong for people, especially pharmacists, to victimise patent medicine dealers over their role in the health sector.

“Let me categorically say that patent medicine dealers equally have their right. We register them especially to in areas where pharmacists are in short supply or don’t exist at all. For instance, we need them in remote places like Badagry, Ikorodu and environs,” Adejumo said.

To justify her statement, the Lagos DPS explained that a team of inspectors once visited a community called “Cele Village” in Ikeja and was shocked to discover there was no single pharmacy in sight.

“Should we leave such areas to suffer? I don’t think so. What’s fair is fair! If you (pharmacists) don’t want them, we admonish you to move to those areas and cover up the lapses. Because one thing I can tell you is that they are recognised by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the DPS in Lagos State for as long as they comply within the ambiance of the law,” she noted.

Dr Adejumo, however, conceded that only the PCN had a final say on the issue. Accordingly, with the present thumbs-up coming from the PCN chairman, the contentious issue appears to have been laid to rest.

In a similar vein, Pharm. Azubike Okwor, immediate past president of the PSN, has also called for the incorporation of pharmacy technicians into the society, saying that the world was facing a chronic shortage of trained health workers.

During his presentation at the academy summit, he remarked that the WHO statistics had shown that there was a global health workforce deficit of more than four million, adding that countries with lower economic indicators such as those in Africa tend to have relatively fewer pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

As a way out, he recommended to the summit that task-shifting, the process of delegating assignments to less-specialised health workers should be implemented alongside other strategies that had been designed to increase the total number of health workers in all cadres.

“Pharmacy technicians are a vital part of the pharmacy team working under the direct supervision of pharmacists. However, a relatively small percentage of graduating technicians are registered with the PCN,” he observed.

Okwor further canvassed protection and fairer treatment of technicians by pharmacists.

“With sufficient supervision and support, technicians can be assigned more roles to enable pharmacists concentrate on more patient-centred roles. I also urge the PCN to ensure that there is ‘One Register, One Entry Point and One Standard for Technicians,” he proffered.

The distinguished pharmacist who has been officially recognised as the first African Fellow of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) charged community pharmacies to engage the services of pharmacy technicians to relieve them of the daily stress, stressing that task-shifting could provide a platform for the incorporation of the technicians’ services into the pharmacy team efforts in health care delivery.

“The PSN should understudy other professional associations and how they relate with their technicians with a view to incorporating pharmacy technicians into our society,” he suggested.

For the record, the summit organised by NAPharm. marked its first formal programme since inauguration at a ceremony chaired by former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) GCFR, in June 2014.

The summit was created to provide the necessary window for the pharmacy profession to look outwards with a duty to society, with the purpose of working with other members of the health professional team in order to create a larger health system that would deliver on quality health for Nigerians including diagnostic, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health care.

In attendance at the summit were Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, former minister of health and president of NAPharm; Prof. Rahamon Bello, vice chancellor, University of Lagos; Prof. (Mrs) Cecilia Igwilo, chairman of the NAPharm.’s Education Committee; Prof. Fola Tayo, NAPharm’s general secretary; Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, PSN president and Pharm. N.A.E. Mohammed, PCN registrar.

Others were Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, vice president of the Academy; Dr Teresa Pounds, assistant dean for Clinical Pharmacy Education of Mercer University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, USA; Dr Bugewa Apampa, director of pharmacy, University of Sussex, United Kingdom; Prof. Chinedu Babalola, FPSN, FAS (dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ibadan) and Prof. Augustine Okhamafe, FPSN (Former dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Benin).

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Patent medicine vendors indispensable, says PCN