The present leadership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has been able to fly the flag of the pharmacy profession high and show decision-makers in the country the selflessness of the pharmacy profession, Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, president, PSN, has said.
Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview recently, Pharm. Yakasai, who was elected to pilot the affairs of the pharmacy association in Nigeria two years ago, said the efforts of his presidency had resulted in tangible outcomes for the pharmacy profession, noting that the present PSN exco would keep doing the best to serve the noble profession.
Some of the tangibles of his presidency, Pharm. Yakasai said, are the commencement of the Pharm. D programme, the opening of the Medicines Information Centre at PSN Secretariat and the launch of the PSN Foundation, aimed at supporting pharmacists in particular and the nation in general.
The PSN helmsman stated further that the present leadership had helped to promote harmony in the health sector, given humanitarian support to the public during the last meningitis outbreak and also given humanitarian assistance worth over 50 million naira to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the northeast of Nigeria.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
Since your assumption of office two years ago, you have implemented a number of initiatives towards improving the pharmacy profession and strengthening collaboration with stakeholders in and out of the health sector to improve patient treatment outcomes and the health system. What are the gains of these efforts and what other initiatives do you plan to embark on?
As you’ve rightly said, we’ve been quite busy working; but the good news is that our efforts have resulted in tangible outcomes for the profession, which is the most important thing. We’ve been able to fly the flag of the profession high and show decision-makers in the country the selflessness of the pharmacy profession in Nigeria.
Today, Pharm. D is a thing of reality in the country. The Medicines Information Centre for all healthcare providers is now a reality at PSN national secretariat. We’ve just launched the PSN Foundation in October at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, to support our professional colleagues who need assistance, in particular, and the entire nation in general.
We’ve promoted harmony in the health sector. As part of our humanitarian services, we donated drugs to the public during the meningitis outbreak in the country. We also gave humanitarian assistance worth over 50 million naira to the IDPs camps in the northeast of the country. The PSN education committee also held a productive workshop on digitalisation of pharmacy education and practice.
Internationally, we’ve improved the image of the society and Nigeria at various fora like FIP, APF, Duphat, among others. We have done a lot in advocacy and public health education through observing all disease days.
We will keep doing our best in the next one year. And posterity will judge us for the efforts and commitments we’ve put in, serving our noble profession.
Nigerian pharmacies and drug stores are filled with drugs imported from Asia, particularly, China and India. What should we be doing as a nation to correct this, considering the place of medicine in the health system and the security implication of depending on imported drugs as aptly captured in the theme of the 90th PSN conference?
The way forward is local production. As a country, we need to develop our pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. India and China have developed their pharmaceutical sectors. This is why we can be importing drugs from these countries. If we develop our own pharmaceutical sector, we will achieve medicine security, self-sufficiency, conserve forex, transfer of technology, employment generation for our teeming youth and grow the economy. I am a strong advocate of local production because it is the real solution to our current over-dependence on drug importation.
Since Dr Paul Orhii’s exit as director-general of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the agency has been led by two different DGs in acting capacity. Why is it seemingly difficult for the government to appoint a DG for this important agency and what are the implications?
I believe the government has the best interest of the country at heart but we cannot continue dwelling on adhoc structures in perpetuity. To take NAFDAC to the next level, we need a trusted, capable and competent leader, who has the administrative and technical skills to do the job.
Based on existing laws, it is only a pharmacist who has the know-how on drugs, cosmetics, food, consumables and medical devices. To me, this delay in putting the round peg in the round hole will fail to fast-track the change this government promised Nigerians. Delays in appointments – which are also sometimes unlawful – in a sensitive agency like NAFDAC definitely takes a toll on the quality of care consumers of health receive from caregivers. And appointing a qualified Director General of NAFDAC is a real service to the nation in safeguarding the quality of health of our people.
What also are your thoughts on the delay by government to implement agreement with other health workers on the consultancy status and wage issues?
I think the Federal government should respect agreement in the interest of fairness, justice and equity. My appeal to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is to give immediate attention to the clamours of health workers, including pharmacists, to redress some pressing welfare demands like the immediate release of circular on adjustment of the CONHESS scale by the salary and wages commission, full payment of balance of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10, issuance of enabling circular authorising consultancy cadre for health professionals who have adhered to due process by scaling the hurdles of approval of the National Council on Establishment etc.
Delay is dangerous in doing the right thing. And the right thing is the right. There is no wrong time to do the right thing in life.
What is your message to pharmacists and other participants concerning the upcoming 90th PSN conference? What should they expect?
My message is that the upcoming 90th PSN National Conference in Umuahia, Abia State, is a milestone in the history of our noble association. I urge them to be part of this history. The Conference Planning Committee is working round the clock to make sure that this year’s conference is a conference like never before. The conference has as its theme: “Medicines Availability and National Security” – and the keynote address will be delivered by Dr Andrew S. Nevin of PwC.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has gladly accepted to be the Special Guest of Honour and to declare the conference open. The Governor of Abia State is the Chief Host, while the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac F. Adewole, will be the Guest of Honour. Mr Peter Obi, Former Governor of Anambra State, is the Chairman of the occasion and Her Excellency, the Wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, is the Mother of the day.
The experience will be rich and rewarding. I am looking forward to seeing you at Umuahia as we learn from one another, network with each other and move our profession to the next level together. We have arranged adequate and robust security arrangement. We will not disappoint you. Together, we are stronger.