The pharmaceutical sector of the Nigerian economy is currently in a critical state and to avert total collapse, government must encourage local pharmaceutical manufacturers with special consideration on Forex, import duty and taxation, Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), has said.
Pharm. Yakasai, in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews, stated further that due to the present economic recession in the country, many pharmaceutical importers have stopped importation of medicines to the country and this has made prices of medicines to rise.
He also spoke about the efforts he has made in the last one year to deliver on his campaign promises.
Below are the excerpts of the interview.
It is now one year since you were sworn in as PSN president. You obviously have been quite busy working to deliver on your electoral promise of strengthening the PSN with collaborative participatory and responsive leadership, but what would you say has been the major highlight of your presidency so far?
The major highlight of my presidency so far in the last one year has been delivering on my campaign promises of strengthening the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria as you have rightly mentioned. We have run our administration on a quadruple. Our first focus was to work hard to ensure the society has an improved image. Today, it is crystal clear to all and sundry that the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is a professional body to reckon with in Nigeria. I strongly believe that PSN under my leadership has achieved an improved image due to our relentless efforts at showing Nigerians that we care about their health, and our utter commitment to public health for public good.
Our second focus was to ensure we had an efficient and responsive PSN. 12 months after becoming the president of PSN, we have had constant and robust communication of our activities to our members, using the new and traditional media, especially to our young colleagues, in an unprecedented way. The pharmaceutical industry forum is another milestone we’ve achieved under this administration.
Our third focus was to have an accountable and transparent society. Within the last one year we’ve run PSN with utmost accountability and transparency – abiding by the 2013 constitution of PSN in all matters and taking decisions with utter responsibility, probity and fairness. While quality and excellence are two non-negotiable traits in whatever we do, we’ve looked for the best quality at the most cost-effective price.
Our fourth focus was to ensure that despite the challenges in the country, which have affected all sectors of the economy, we enhance the resources and capability of the PSN. The five-star inauguration and investiture of Fellows of PSN in Abuja, the newly upgraded office of the PSN president, the PSN Foundation, the Medicines Information Centre, support for NIPRD, e-newsletter, visits to industries, the celebrated World Pharmacists Day and all other disease days, the advocacy visits to the high and low, international engagements, and actualisation of the Pharm.D programme in Nigeria, are some of the successes we’ve recorded so far in this administration to enhance the human and material resources of our noble profession in Nigeria. All these were geared towards delivering real value to PSN and members.
The Nigerian economy is biting hard and all sectors, including the pharmaceutical, are being affected. How huge is the impact of the economic recession on the pharmaceutical sector and what should we be doing as a nation to protect this special sector and make it deliver on its potential of contributing more to the country’s GDP?
The impact of the economic recession on the pharmaceutical sector has been massive. Many importers have currently stopped importation of medicines to the country, a lot of pharmaceutical manufacturers are out of business, the prices of medicines have skyrocketed and, currently, the pharmaceutical sector of the country is in Intensive Care Unit and needs urgent intervention from the government. It is time for the government to prioritise the pharmaceutical sector, encourage local manufacturers through special considerations on Forex, import duties and taxation. When properly managed, the pharmaceutical sector has a lot of potentials in employing a lot of our teeming youths and enhancing Nigeria’s GDP through drug sufficiency in the country and export to other West African countries.
You are a strong advocate of a health system focused on making the patient the centrepiece of health care delivery. How important is this idea and what are the measures we should be taking as a nation to achieve it?
The patient is the epicentre in the healthcare delivery system. Whether you are a doctor, a pharmacist, a nurse, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a medical laboratory scientist or any other health worker, our ultimate goal is the well-being of the patient. Therefore, at all times, our focus must be the patient and every decision must be in the patient’s interest. In particular, pharmacy profession has evolved from drug-oriented to patient-oriented because the essence of drug discovery, manufacturing, distribution, sales and dispensing is to help patients to feel better and get better.
Some of the measures I’ve already taken as the PSN president are the actualisation of Pharm./D in Nigeria, the establishment of the Medicine Information Centre for the public good, various released publications to celebrate World Health Organisation health-related days, fostering collaborative and participatory relationship among all stakeholders in the health sector, amongst others.
What we can do as a nation to achieve this goal is to improve our healthcare delivery system through training and retraining of our health practitioners, improving existing healthcare facilities and building and equipping health infrastructures of world class standard. We also need to improve health care delivery at the primary healthcare level, and ensure improved welfare of all healthcare workers in the country.
The future of Pharmacy can only be bright when young pharmacists are properly mentored and carried along on important issues affecting the profession, what is your administration doing to ensure young pharmacists get more involved in PSN activities?
I believe that our young pharmacists are the future of our profession. In the next 20-25 years, most of them will be the movers and shakers of the profession. Therefore, proper mentoring of these young pharmacists is dear to my heart. Personally, I appointed a young, smart pharmacist, Sesan Kareem, as my personal assistant to mentor him and equip him to become a better person in life. I’m also mentoring many other young pharmacists across the country. The Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy has also initiated a mentoring programme for these ambitious future leaders. I intentionally use social media to disseminate information and update our colleagues, especially our young colleagues, on our progress as well as our challenges. This has gone a long way in rekindling the interest of our young colleagues in PSN and her activities.
What has been your greatest challenge so far as PSN president?
My greatest challenge is delivering my campaign promises. I know that my days are numbered as PSN president. So, I have to give my best every day and work round the clock to strengthen PSN and leave a better PSN for those coming after me as PSN leaders. Thank God that I am the type that confronts challenges head on. I am not afraid of challenges of any type at all.
What are your thoughts on the theme of the 89th PSN conference which centres on ensuring that the pharmacy profession contributes more to national development?
In other places like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and India, just to name a few, the pharmaceutical profession has contributed and is contributing enormously to their development, in terms of job creation, foreign exchange earnings, medicines, security and GDP. However, in Nigeria we still have a long way to go.
In this light, the theme of this year’s conference, ‘Pharmaceutical Industry Contributions To National Development’ is apt and timely because the federal government has started its diversification plan from sole reliance on crude oil as a source of revenue. It is sad that despite our estimated operational value of over $2b, our country is yet to be a notable contributor to our nation’s GDP. No doubt that the pharmaceutical sector is one of the key sectors that can contribute to national development.
What are the plans of PSN to make the PSN conference holding in Minna a memorable one, any special feature(s)?
Our plan to make it a memorable one is ongoing and robust. We are aware that people’s expectations are high, considering the success we recorded at the inauguration and investiture of Fellows at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja last February. We are working assiduously to make sure our colleagues have value for coming to this year’s conference. Their welfare and happiness are germane to us.
Let me use this medium to appreciate the conference planning committee for their sacrifice for the profession. Some of the special features include first class railway coach being adopted as one of the prime channels of transportation from Lagos to Minna for this year’s conference. The special guest of honour of the opening ceremony is the Vice President of Nigeria, His Excellency Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, SAN, who will declare it open while the Governor of Niger State is the chief host, while the Honourable Minister of Health and the Governor of Kano State will be the guests of honour. There are many other special features to look out for.
The theme of the conference key be delivered by Pharm. Olu Akanmu, the vice president, FCMB. This conference will exploit avenues for discussing all issues that concern the pharmaceutical sector of the economy. We have mobilised pharmacists and all other healthcare professionals nationwide as well as the diaspora.
I urge my fellow colleagues across the length and breadth of the country to come en masse and be part of this year’s conference. We will not disappoint you.