In this interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Pharm. Bolade Luke Adeeko, a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and founding member of Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists (now Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, ACPN) opens up on challenges facing the profession and why he thinks the arbitrary manner Patent & Proprietary Medicines Vendors Licence (PPMVL) are issued should be reviewed.
What influenced your decision to study Pharmacy?
A career-talk in my final year in secondary school influenced my decision to study Pharmacy. The wide variety of career opportunities Pharmacy offered (and still offers) was a motivating factor. Retail and hospital pharmacy practice (as it was then) was very inviting with pharmacists smartly and neatly dressed, with sparkling white overalls.
How would you compare Pharmacy in your day to today’s practice?
Pharmacy practice then was well-structured and better organised. Pharmacists were more professional,more disciplined, and carried themselves with pride. They were respected in the society. The same cannot be said today of Pharmacy and pharmacists.
Were there controversies and scandals surrounding the profession during your time?
Controversies and scandals were not commonplace in those days. Intrigues and other disturbing issues reared their ugly heads mostly within the civil service. There was generally peace, cohesion and professionalism within the private sector. Competition was there, but there was no bitterness or rancour.
What would you say are the challenges facing pharmacy practice today?
The challenges facing Pharmacy practice in Nigeria are hydra-headed and pharmacists themselves do not seem to be helping matters.The standard of practice has fallen and professionalism has taken a backseat. Pharmacists, especially the young ones,need a complete and thorough re-orientation on ethical practice. The “Register & Go” syndrome is a major issue that has refused to die. The problem of fake and counterfeit drugs is a national cankerworm. The continued indiscriminate issuance of Patent& Proprietary Medicines Vendors Licence (PPMVL) should be seriously reviewed. Most of them go beyond their brief and dent the image of pharmacists by posing to be and acting as one. The present chaotic and all comers’method of drug distribution should be seriously looked into. The ongoing effort to redefine and streamline the distributive channels should also be seen to a workable conclusion.
Let’s talk about the perennial issue of fake and counterfeit medicine. Do you think it can be curbed?
A lot has been done and is still being done to tame this monster.Federal and state task forces on fake drugs and unwholesome food have to up their game. They need to be better funded for more frequent raids and given powers to prosecute and speedilybring erring drug counterfeiters and fakers to justice. Moreover, NAFDAC and the PSN should collaborate more to ensure the monster is tamed. They should be seen to bark and bite. Pharmacists should also play a protective role of the profession by ensuring that they don’t collaborate with or assist these enemies of the people in their nefarious and murderous activities.
To what extent have you been involved in pharmaceutical activities?
I have been involved in pharmaceutical activities since my university days. I was secretary and later president of PANS (1969-1970). I am a founding member of NAGPP (now ACPN) in 1983. At various times, I also held the following positions: Member,Lagos State task force on fake and counterfeit drugs and unwholesome food (2000-2013); member, Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee, representing Lagos State PSN(2000-Date); National Secretary NAGPP(1986-1988); Vice Chairman,NAGPP, Lagos State(1989-1991); Chairman Egbeda/Dopemu/Akowonjo(EDA) Zone of ACPN (1999-2001); member, PSN Privileges Committee (1994); member, PSN Law and Ethics Committee (2007-2009); and member,PSN Ad hoc Committee on 3rd M & B Professional Service Award in Pharmacy (2007).
Were there some major awards given to you in recognition of your selfless service?
Well, I have been privileged to be honoured with the following awards: Lagos State PSN Merit Award for noble contributions and services to the profession of pharmacy and PSN Lagos State(May 2000); Lagos State PSN Distinguished Pharmacist Award (August 2006) and PSN Fellowship Award (2009).
What is your impression of the annual PSN national conferences?
I have attended an above-average number of PSN National conferences. There,you meet and interact with colleagues.You can also get a deserved rest which you may have denied yourself. Because the conferences are yearly moved across Nigeria, they provide the opportunity to know the country more. However the planning committees should de-emphasise commercialisation of the conference. This phenomenon seems to have overshadowed the educational and scientific benefits the conference should afford participants.
If you were not to be a pharmacist, what other profession would you have opted for?
Before I entered the university to study pharmacy, I worked as a technical assistant at the then Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) and the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS)in Ibadan. If I had not studiedPharmacy, maybe I would have ended up as a technical man in the radio and television industry.
Is there any particular age that an active pharmacist should retire?
A pharmacist should still be professionally active, even in old age, as long as his physical and mental health allows him. Each individual should know when to draw the curtain and take a deserved rest.
As an elder in the pharmacy profession, what is your advice to young pharmacists?
My principal during my secondary school days, used to tell us, “Festina Lente”, meaning, “Make haste slowly.”Our young pharmacists should be more ethical in their practice of the profession and avoid sharp practices in an attempt to make quick money. They should desist from practices that demean Pharmacy and the dishonour of pharmacists. They should remember that “Life is honour – it ends when honour ends.”