Editor-In-Chief of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) Lagos State Chapter, Pharm. Paul Olatunbosun Owolabi, has raised the alarm over what he calls “incursion into pharmacy practice by charlatans and quacks,” saying the impact of these groups is like an infectious disease that has entered into the system, silently killing the practice. Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview recently, Pharm. Owolabi, managing director, Lighthouse Pharmacy, Ifako/Ijaiye, Lagos State, equally tasked the federal government to help curb the rate at which young people are exposed to hard drugs in the country. Excerpts:
As an experienced community pharmacist, how would you assess pharmacy practice in this part of the state?
I have practised in almost all the technical arms of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), but community practice seems to be the most challenging because almost everybody in this part of the world sees it is a business venture where they can invest money and make profit at will, without minding the professionalism aspect of it. So, the practice in this part of the country is greatly challenged.
Tell us about your outfit, Lighthouse Pharmacy. What is the philosophy behind its establishment and where do you hope to take the business to in five years?
We started about seven years ago to render pharmaceutical services to members of the public in our neighbourhood, both far and near, while prioritising family wellness, drug and health Information. So, in five years’ time by the grace of God, we hope to have more branches and many more services
What is Lighthouse Pharmacy doing differently as at present that stands you out in community pharmacy practice?
As I mentioned earlier, family wellness is our major priority and we are doing this with special benefit for the senior citizens, specifically those above 65 years, widows, and others. This is one of the aims and objectives of our non-governmental organisation called Charity Foundation, which is being run in partnership with my wife here in Lagos, Ifako Ijaye Local Government, to be precise.
As the new editor-in-chief of Lagos ACPN, tell us about your new position.
It’s almost a year now that I came into the office, so the position is an opportunity to serve pharmacy profession, passing vital and valuable information that will enhance the practice to colleagues through newsletters, journals, social media, online channels, newspaper publications and other medium, in such a way that the general public can also have access to information at their level. However, sponsorship is our major challenge, as there are projects to be funded majorly through adverts and donations, so that copies can be distributed free to all technical group members, even government agencies.
It can be tough combining community pharmacy practice with active involvement in ACPN activities. How do you intend to manage this?
Very tough indeed, it is a big sacrifice that I have to make, but I have the passion to contribute my little efforts, knowledge and experience in organising and forming a good structure to make things work, irrespective of the challenges.
What do you think is wrong with the way community pharmacy is being practised in Nigeria?
Most people think it is a trade business and not a professional service. Unfortunately we have allowed and are still licensing traders who are like an infectious disease to enter into the system. I pray they will not turn into a “cancer” before we realise that no matter how well you decorate a pig, it will still find its way into the mud. In advanced countries, only trained professionals handle drugs; but here in Nigeria, it is a free-for-all.
Drug abuse has been on the increase in recent times. Tell us your experience on this, and how it can be curtailed?
This is a full topic of discussion on its own because drug abuse in the 21st century has taken new dimensions. Substances that are meant for different use are being abused. This involves males and females, young and old, men and women, married and single. Recently the Nigerian House of Assembly raised the alarm over the rate at which cough syrups with codeine preparations are being abused by various categories of the population in the north. Some use them as beverages stored in the refrigerator. Tramadol abuse is on the increase. The heart-breaking thing is that a good percentage of the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow may end up facing the consequences of drug abuse, giving them no hope of doing well in future. Most become criminals like armed robbers, assassins, suicide bombers and rapists just to mention few.
Pharmacists who are the custodians of drugs have a major role to play. Drug manufacturers and community pharmacists do not need to wait for government policies or agencies before we do what is right. We must control the manufactured quantities, sales, distribution and dispensing of codeine-containing cough syrups, using our professional judgments, not allowing monetary gains to blindfold us.
How cordial is your relationship with the people of this community, and how lucrative is pharmacy business here?
God has helped us to be relevant in this community as we have intervened in many hopeless medical situations. Most of the times, our opinions are being used when certain decisions are to be made in the community. Our services and business angle is increasing on daily basis and people are willing to recommend us to their neighbours.