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70% of local drugs inaccessible as forex scarcity persists

By Chukwuma Muanya (Assistant Editor) and Akin Alofetekun (Minna)
10 November 2016   |   3:59 am
The Society identified reasons why the pharmaceutical sector, which is valued at over $2 billion is not a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai (left); Keynote Speaker, Olu Akanmu; and Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, during opening ceremony of PSN’s 89th Annual National Conference with theme “Pharmaceutical Industry Contribution to National Development” held on Tuesday in Minna Niger State

President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai (left); Keynote Speaker, Olu Akanmu; and Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, during opening ceremony of PSN’s 89th Annual National Conference with theme “Pharmaceutical Industry Contribution to National Development” held on Tuesday in Minna Niger State

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Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have raised the alarm that 70 per cent of medicines manufactured, marketed, used, and dispensed in Nigeria are becoming near inaccessible as scarcity of foreign exchange that is United States (U.S.) Dollar persists.

The Society identified reasons why the pharmaceutical sector, which is valued at over $2 billion is not a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some of the reasons identified by the pharmacists at the PSN’s 89th Annual National Conference, held Tuesday in Minna, Niger State, are rampant Substandard, Spurious, Falsely Labelled, Falsified, and Counterfeit (SSFFC), limited numbers of qualified pharmacists to ensure that community and clinical pharmacy are at the heart of primary and secondary health care, implementing National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) in 2017, and reversing the trend of poor access to medicines.

As part of efforts to address the situation, the Federal Government has promised to accord special preference to the local manufacturing of essential pharmaceutical products in the country in order to ensure affordable and accessible health care facilities in Nigeria.

Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who stated this Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the 89th PSN annual national conference urged pharmacists to resist counterfeit and sub standard drugs in the efforts to ensure patronage by Nigerians.

He stated that the government was not unaware of the challenges confronting the industry but will remove the barriers to ensure healthy competition.

Represented by the Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole, the Vice President emphasized the vital roles played by pharmacists in Nigeria taking cognizance of the country’s population and applauded them for their selfless service to the people both in public and Private sectors.

He further said that government is making efforts to ensure stable and sustainable economic development and reducing dependence on oil to other sectors of the economy.

The Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello in his speech stressed the need for greater priority to quality, affordable and accessible health care in the country and needed increased funding to ensure provision of health facilities and services.

Represented by the Niger state speaker of the state assembly, Hon. Ahmed Marafa, the governor said that the state will partner with the PSN to ensure affordable healthcare facilities in the state and told them to intensify efforts in curbing sub standard pharmaceutical drugs in the country.

Renowned pharmacists received awards from the society. A number of friends of PSN were also honoured with awards during the event, one of which is was the Ben Ukwuoma Memorial Media Award to Mr. Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor of The Guardian Newspapers for excellent reportage of health issues.

President, PSN, Ahmed I. Yakasai, in his address said: “We are facing one of the most challenging economic climates ever witnessed, alongside increasing anxieties about disease outbreaks and rising poverty. As an industry, we have a risk exposure of approximately 70 per cent of medicines that we manufacture, market, use, and dispense, mostly becoming near inaccessible due to an unprecedented highly priced US Dollar. These are dynamics that must be reversed if our industry is to stay afloat and we are to stay true to the fundamental vision and ethos of ensuring access to medicine by our growing population.

“We must also recognize that despite our estimated operational value of over $2b, our industry is yet to be a notable contribution to our nation’s GDP. The complexities of our demography – substantial ageing alongside a youthful population within an estimated over 180 million people with complex disease profiles – are indications of the need for us to revisit our practice model and industry positioning. All these are situated in a non-sophisticated health economy and systems. Our pharmacy profession and industry appear to be catching the flu just with a few sneezes by our social and economic environments. We sure need some remedy and fast.”

Yakasai urged pharmacists to remain true to the profession’s values, which are what will sustain and ensure their relevance at such a time as this. “By values, I am not referring to the cheesy phrases that we sometimes paste on our offices wall that fill up the space and still look vacuous and empty. Values, in this context, for us as pharmacists, must be behaviors that are devoid of abstracts but pregnant with qualities of action that enable us to freely choose to do what is right. It is that which guide rather than constrain our everyday professional actions and choices,” he said.

The PSN President said that those characters that will run through the Society’s new and renewed thoughts as has been captured in the PSN Strategy document that will lunch after the conference. “These values will be our refreshed and renewed sets of pointers, road maps and signposts that will assist our profession to make decisions that match the way we should practice going forward, one that says that we must be in touch with the things that matter to us, things that matter to our patients and indeed things that matter to our country Nigeria. They are what will make us firm and resolute as we negotiate new and existing relationships with other professionals and even sections within our own industry, when choices and decisions need to be made,” he said.

To prepare pharmacists for this new and emerging world, therefore, Yakasai argued that there is need for new approach and a new professional philosophy. He explained: “This I will describe as ‘Pharmacentricism’. ‘Pharmacentricism’ captures a new ideology of pharmaceutical practice and it is defined by a new approach to how we view and explicate what we stand for as pharmacists and what we project as professionals. Pharmacentricism will require that we have to start to navigate our social, economic and professional worlds in different and new ways, guided by our professional lens and knowledge, with citizens and patients as our core focus and at the center of all we do.”

Yakasai confirmed that the National Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the Pharm. D Programme. He explained: “Recall that this programme had been canvassed since 1999 when the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of PSN approved it in Enugu. Successive leaderships of PSN took progressive turns to actualize the Pharm. D. dream.

“Now that this is approved, I enjoin all the faculties of pharmacy to brace up for this challenge in the collective bid to improve our service to consumers of health. Our resolve to institutionalize world-class pharmacy practice, which embellishes Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP), commences with the Pharm. D approval.

“The various pharmacy schools must send more of their staff to specialize in Clinical Pharmacy models which will be adaptable for home grown initiatives.”

Yakasai said towards this end the PSN would continue to provide the buffer and other cataclysmic templates to promote productive interactions, with diaspora pharmacists who can assist to move this ideal to the next level.

He said in line with the disposition of the new National Executive Committee (NEC) to innovate the PSN is already thinking of how to mobilize specific stakeholders to establish new Faculties of Pharmacy in the country like have seen in some other countries.

Yakasai said the PSN shall also begin a series of initiatives that will give birth to a National Postgraduate College of Pharmacy and is working very hard in actualizing the consultancy cadre in public sector even as he thanked the Niger State Government for been the first to recognize the consultancy cadre.

Yakasai said in consonance with its philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the PSN feels compelled to partner with the Federal Government in making life better for Nigerians who are in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps around the nation by donating medicines worth N50 million through the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.