To say all is not well with the pharmacy profession in Nigeria would be an understatement, if one agrees with the submissions of the new chairperson of the Association of Ladies Pharmacists (ALPs) Lagos State Chapter, Pharm. Modupe Ologunagba. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) lecturer, who took over the mantle of leadership of the association from Pharm. (Mrs) S.N. Lan, in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews recently expressed worries at the direction pharmacy practice is going in the country.
In an emotion laden voice, Pharm. Ologunagba recalled how she practised community pharmacy for twenty-five years, before she ventured into academics and became a lecturer at the Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceuticals Technology Department, University of Lagos; and how things were done then, compared to how the profession is being practised today.
Below is the excerpt of the interview:
As an experienced pharmacist, how would you assess pharmacy profession in Nigeria today?
As far as I am concerned, the pharmacy profession is at a crossroad. Things are vastly falling apart and the profession is being gradually taken over by the non-professionals. So, many issues are presently confronting and contending with us, and almost every sector of the profession is being confronted by series of challenges. The community pharmacists are being confronted by the activities of the charlatans and traders, who are not meant to handle drugs and have no knowledge of what pharmacy is all about. The community pharmacists are the most challenged sector because everybody wants to go into the business of drug selling, even those who have been sacked from their main profession; the first thing they do is pick up the drug selling trade. You see them hawking drugs in buses, marketplaces and kiosks.Meanwhile, the only sector that is a bit less challenged is the hospital sector; probably because the pay has been improved, especially in Lagos State. We found out that those in the hospital sector are a bit happy; but not that the pay is the best for them presently, especially when compared with those in the medical fields. But it is better than other sectors. So, when you talk about challenges, pharmacy profession is the most challenged.
How do you see pharmacy practice today, compared to when you started?
The pharmacy profession, like I said earlier on, is actually at the crossroad. Young pharmacists are no longer interested in practising the profession they got certificates in. They are in the wave of wanting money at all cost, and not ready to make much sacrifice that our generation made. It is worrisome that our young professionals now prefer to work in other sectors, like telecommunications, banking, oil and gas etc. This is a great challenge for the profession because those that should safeguard our profession are now leaving it to be practiced by the charlatans, businessmen and women, traditional consultants and illiterates.
Can you tell us some of the challenges you have faced in the course of practising pharmacy and how they were surmounted?
I have practised pharmacy for about twenty-five years before I joined the academia. And while I was in the community care, I began to notice that I needed to position myself distinctly. I realised that it can only be done by developing myself through continuous training. I have realised that graduating from the school of pharmacy alone is not what makes one a pharmacist, and that a pharmacist needs to develop his or her area of competence. The trend now is to specialise in one area, and ensure that you excel in that area which you have chosen. So, a community pharmacist should not sit down and just believe that this is the era of buying and selling. They should rather think of how they can go into aspects of health promotion, public health activities; and those were actually what I did. I took a degree programme in public health. I also did a post-graduate diploma programme in health sector and environmental management, so that I could be relevant to the community where I served. And I began to collaborate with some non-governmental organisations that are community based in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. And I did not waste time when I was invited for further training that would improve my competence.
What are things you think the government should do to improve the profession?
During my school days, we had a lot of equipment to work with. The environment was conducive for learning and the facilities were in abundance. I graduated from the University of Ife, now ObafemiAwolowo University (OAU). I am always proud of that institution and the kind of training that I got from that place, but what do we get, nowadays, in our so called federal universities? The facilities are no more adequate; the lecturers are not sufficient; the student population is alarming; and there are no lecture halls and hostels to accommodate them. Therefore it is impossible for them to have the kind of effective education that we had in our own time. Also, the generation of students that we have nowadays are not willing to commit themselves to active and serious learning; probably because of the technology and proliferation of social media. So,the government should look into these. Secondly, it is important that the government begins to put into place good infrastructures in our tertiary institutions. Accommodation is another major problem that students grapple with, and that is why a lot of them come late to lectures and examination halls. Once these are taken care of, the standard of education would definitely improve. Meanwhile, the government efforts should be continuous and there should never be ending improvement from the practitioners, themselves.
What can you say about the last administration, which you were also part of?
It was an impactful and impressive one. The administration, despite the challenges we had with low attendance of members, never deviated from the mandate of the association. Pharm. Lan, the immediate past chairperson, was able to address so many ambitions of the association regarding the school intervention programme, moral campaign, market campaign, visitations to orphanage homes, etc. During her tenure, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN)Awards were accorded to us twice. She made the association known by all and sundry; and we got recognitions from other technical groups.
Can you tell us some of the things the last administration was unable to do that you intend to do?
I shall be looking at the aspect of our members’ participation, because the more we are, the better for the association. This aspect is one I would love to achieve great success. This is because I want a situation whereby all female pharmacists in Lagos State join our association. I shall be fulfilled if that can be achieved. This would enable us speak with one voice; the vision of the association would be enlarged; and we shall be able to partner with NGOs and other professional bodies to promote health education in the state.
What message do you have for your members in the state?
I am imploring them to come together to move ALPs forward, because just like our motto says, “As women of honour, we join hands.” We should join hands together, so that we can have a stronger Lagos State ALPs, and by so doing, the pharmacy profession would move forward.