To sustain the nation’s pharmaceutical sector and ensure continued access to quality healthcare services, the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency in the pharmaceutical sector.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews recently, Dr (Pharm) Albert Kelong Alkali, national chairman of the association, stated that this has become necessary as the current downturn in the nation’s economy is causing scarcity of essential drugs as well as escalating the cost of running an average community pharmacy.
Alkali further bared his mind on some mind-boggling challenges facing community pharmacy practice in the country, while suggesting steps that can be taken to surmount them.
What would you say have been the major achievements of ACPN since you took over as national chairman?
Since my assumption of office as national chairman, we have organised two trainings on antibiotics use and the management of respiratory diseases in collaboration with GSK. Capacity building has been one of my cardinal objectives because a well-informed community practitioner will deliver better pharmaceutical services based on current best practices.
Also, we were able to organise a well-attended and successful national conference in Enugu State, and our members left with loads of information that will improve their practice.
In addition, we have upgraded our website, built a comprehensive database of our members, and successfully revived some state chapters that had been inactive for a long time.
We have also re-launched the Green Cross emblem, which was widely publicised with a television advert where we featured prominent comedian and actor, Chief Zebrudaya. These clips have been distributed to states for promotion, and we are hopeful that this re-launch will help create awareness on where to procure quality medicines.
We have equally submitted a memorandum to the National Assembly on the amendment of some provisions of the NAFDAC Act. Similarly, we have submitted a proposal to the management of the NHIS on the way forward for the scheme, considering its dismal performance so far.
How challenging has it been running such an important association as ACPN?
The major challenge we’re confronted with now is the issue of non-conducive practice environment. The environment is too chaotic for my members to practice, and this has been compounded by the current economic state of the nation.
To tackle this issue, we have been collaborating with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) on ways to improve inspection, monitoring and enforcement to detect and sanction illegal operators. I commend their efforts so far, but we expect more from them as more drug vendors and quacks still operate and are thriving in areas where there are registered pharmacies.
We have also been clamouring to the federal government to as a matter of urgency appoint a director general for NAFDAC.
You mentioned the current state of the Nigerian economy as a challenge. How exactly is this affecting pharmacy practice and how are your members coping?
Our economy is in a bad shape now and this has affected drug manufacturing and importation. The shelves of an average community pharmacist are drying up because of this. Government must act fast and put all hands on deck to reduce the hardship being experienced by Nigerians – especially my members, as essential drugs are drying up and the cost of running an average community pharmacy outlet is going up.
I am calling on government to declare a state of emergency in the pharmaceutical sector, because this is a sector that is capable of generating jobs, earning foreign exchange through export, and meeting the pharmaceutical needs of Nigerians. There is no gainsaying that, without drugs, healthcare delivery will be in serious trouble. Community pharmacy practitioners, by their practice setting, are closest to the community and they are in a position to effectively influence a lot of health outcomes. So, government through the Central Bank and Bank of Industry should create an intervention fund for the pharma sector.
What do you think of the theme of the theme of the forthcoming PSN conference – “Pharmaceutical Industry Contribution to National Development”?
There can be no better theme than this, considering the current economic recession. It’s a wake-up call on all professionals to come on board. I think the PSN has taken the right direction because we need to rebuild Nigeria based on best obtainable practice.
The pharma industry has the capacity to generate thousands of jobs and millions in foreign exchange, if the right environment is created. I am sure that the conference will be proffering pharma industry solutions to some of the nation’s perennial problems.
What grey areas of the pharmacy profession do you think stakeholders should give maximum attention at the conference?
The grey areas that this conference should be looking at should include capacity utilisation of our manufacturing industries, practice environment for community/hospital pharmacy practitioners and government engagement of pharmacists in nation building.
What prompted your choice of Jos, Plateau State, as venue for the next ACPN national conference?
The choice was based on the need to encourage full participation of all states in the activities of the ACPN, as Jos had not hosted the conference for a while now. The climate in Jos is about the best in the country and the people are very hospitable; so I want to encourage my members to start preparing as it promises to be a wonderful experience by God’s grace.
The government and people of Plateau State are waiting to treat all delegates and pharma industry to a lovely experience.