PCN Explains Why Closure of Open Drug Markets Was Postponed
-Offers olive branch to pharmaceutical technologists
The main reason the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole extended the take-off date for the implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) and, by extension, the deadline for closure of the open drug markets to January, 2019, is to enable stakeholders involved in drug distribution to expedite action on the physical development of Co-ordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC), Pharm. N.A.E. Mohammed, registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has said.
Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview, Mohammed, who was recently in Lagos with the health minister to discuss with stakeholders on the way forward on the implementation of the NDDG, disclosed that there was still much to be done as stakeholders needed more time to put the much needed CWC in place for the successful take-off of the NDDG.
The PCN registrar disclosed further that the health minister’s decision to extend the deadline by almost 18 months was based on discussion with the stakeholders and inspection of the CWC in Lagos and Anambra States and the realisation that more time was needed by the stakeholders to put the needed infrastructure in place.
He however emphasized that the health minister had made it clear that there would be no further extension of the deadline for closure of the open drug markets, noting that the pending contentious issues of NDDG, which are human and economic challenges, must be addressed before the new January 2019 deadline, since commitment, will and buy-in are already in place for the programme.
On what informed the recent renewed vigour of the PCN in sealing of illegal drug premises, Mohammed disclosed that this was because the PCN had been able to overcome some regulatory hindrances, which over the years, had impeded its enforcement activities.
While praising the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health for creating an enabling environment for enforcement activities, Mohammed added that the legal unit of the PCN is also now more effective in helping to resolve legal challenges and prosecute offenders to enable the council deliver on its regulatory responsibilities to the citizens.
Also speaking on the recent Court of Appeal ruling which reaffirmed the regulatory power of the PCN over the National Association of Pharmaceutical Technologists and Pharmacy Technicians of Nigeria (NAPPTON) which had filed a suit to seek exemption from PCN regulation, Mohammed said the PCN considers it absurd that the association wanted to confer on itself the power to license and regulate a profession that involves human lives.
The PCN registrar said the lesson to be learnt from the court’s decision is that an association of non-professionals cannot become lawless and arrogate to itself professional regulatory powers reserved for statutory government agencies established by an act of parliament.
He said: “The truth about the whole issue is that some group of Nigerians, who fortunately or unfortunately fell into an ‘academic’ gimmick by certain institutions driven by whatever reasons and without proper homework, came up with the training of individuals with the appellation ‘pharmaceutical technologists.’
“These individuals were thrown into the labour market without proper job description and need assessment/human resource requirement, and in order to create relevance, they decided to re-write the history of pharmacy practice in Nigeria through the back door by arrogating professional regulatory powers, which are powers reserve for statutory government agencies established by an act of parliament. This is what the court of law is saying no to.”
Pharm. Mohammed said that while the PCN sympathises with those going by the appellation of ‘pharmaceutical technologists’ who have found themselves in a dilemma that is no fault of theirs, it must be emphasised that they are different from pharmacy technicians who are recognised by law, trained and regulated by the PCN.
He, however, offered an olive branch to the technologists, stating that the council had set up a rehabilitation programme to move them from the engineering/technical ‘DNA’ education-driven philosophy they have acquired to health ‘DNA’ education-driven one to ensure they fit properly into the Nigeria healthcare services delivery as health workers.
The PCN boss stated that this olive branch became necessary after various meetings held between the Federal Ministries of Health and Education on one side, and the PCN and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) on the other, adding that, at the meetings all concerned stakeholders were participants.
The PCN boss expressed the council’s appreciation for the invaluable contributions of the current Executive Secretary of NBTE, Dr Mas’ud Kazaure, during the meetings, noting that he (Kazaure) demonstrated that he was not enthused by parochialism in dealing with the matter but interested only in what was good for the public.