Pharm. Ahmed I. Yakasai is president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). In this interview with Pharmanews in Lagos recently, he spoke on his vision for the PSN and why pharmacists are committed to collaborating with other health care professionals. Excerpts:
Congratulations on your recent inauguration as PSN President. At the event, you spoke on some areas you will devote your attention to as president. Can you briefly outline your top three agendas?
Thank you so much for your goodwill. To answer your question, concerning my top three agendas out of my 23-point agenda, it is imperative to start by way of a preamble that my vision is to strengthen the PSN with collaborative, participatory, responsive, and transparent leadership. My top three agendas are as follows:
First, I will champion a collaborative leadership for equal benefits with innovative approach, particularly using all digital platforms and enhancing wider advocacy at various levels – national and international. I will also promote inter-professional harmony for the advancement of the pharmacy profession in particular and the growth and improvement of the health sector in general.
I will pursue benefits for the PSN and its members by ensuring an updated Society with improved image, enhanced resources and efficient and responsive forum.I will also pursue benefits to the general public through public health campaigns and programmes. I am going all out for public health in the interest of the general public. In fact we just signed an MoU with Howard University Pace Centre (HUCEPACE) in this direction. At the same time we shall show that we are now patient-centric in our approach, hence the need to actualise the Pharm.D programme in Nigeria.
In general, I will go all out for a review of pharmacy laws, including the Fake and Counterfeit Act and indeed the implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs) so that, together, we can sanitise the chaotic drug distribution channels. Again don’t forget about the Medicines Information Centre in collaboration with UK Medicines Information Centre through Monitor Healthcare Ltd.
You are clearly interested in building collaboration as seen in your warm embrace with the NMA president during your inauguration. What informed this decision considering that the immediate past PSN leadership had a major dispute with the doctors?
Pharmacists have always been interested in collaborating with other health care professionals, including the NMA, in the best interest of the Nigerian populace. As you are well aware, health care provision is a teamwork involving all health care providers and the patients. We all have distinctive but complementary roles to play to ensure optimal health for our patients. It is therefore, pertinent that we work together professionally and cordially. That has always been our take.
Globally, evidence-based medicine is the catalyst of practice. Evidence-based medicine is defined as the integration of the best research evidence, clinical expertise and patient values. Best research evidence cannot be obtained without significant input from the pharmacist as the drug expert. As we all know, doctors are trained to diagnose and prescribe, while pharmacists are trained to ensure the right medication goes to the right patient, in the right dosage, through the right route at the right time, for the right length of days, with minimal costs to the patient and the community. The major role of the pharmacist is to help the clinician select the best drug option for the patient while also ensuring that the patient gets optimum benefit with minimal or no adverse effect.
The present state of the Nigerian economy is affecting all sectors, including the pharmaceutical. Considering the importance of the pharmaceutical sub-sector of the economy to health care delivery, what should be done to sustain and support the sector in these tough times?
The more pharmacists are empowered to professionally manage drugs through the drive for drug optimisation, the better for the nation. All drug matters should be left exclusively to the pharmacist through the PCN and PSN. The value of drug optimisation is appreciated more by advanced countries who have benefited immensely from it. Drug optimisation saves cost as it promotes rational use of medicines, thereby reducing disabilities and deaths from wrong use of medicines and blocks unnecessary drug therapies.
Local production of drugs should be encouraged and invested in, to save our hard-earned foreign currencies. The benefits from this include more job provision for the teeming Nigerian population. I want to use this opportunity to thank President Buhari for promising to revisit the experience of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which he headed in the 1990’s, in which local production of drugs was strengthened and enhanced. In other words, capacity utilisation of the pharmaceutical manufacturers was increased and more jobs were created.
At the community level, community pharmacies should be empowered and motivated to carry out disease-prevention and health-promotion strategies, paying attention to the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What are your thoughts on the clamour for electoral reforms in PSN, considering the controversy that followed the last PSN election held in Abuja last November?
There was not much of controversy and all issues have been resolved. We are working together to bring about purposeful leadership in bridging gaps amongst the health care professionals so that we can work in harmony for the benefit of the patients and the public in general.
There is an ongoing campaign for Nigerians to buy made-in-Nigeria products to boost the nation’s economy. How can the pharmaceutical sector leverage this campaign to reduce the overdependence of our health care system on imported medicines?
Apart from direct saving of our foreign exchange, the drive to use drugs manufactured in Nigeria will reduce drastically the fake drug syndrome.
The challenges of chaotic drug distribution and the open drug market have been major problems for the pharmaceutical sector for years. What is the best way to deal with these issues?
We are making headway in tackling this menace through the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs). We are confident that with the current government’s drive for change, the NDDGs will soon be a reality as promised by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.
However, generally speaking, we have to address the issue of pharmacy education, changing pharmacist roles, healthcare reform, workforce issues and societal views and expectations as change-drivers in Pharmacy.