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Boosting Nigeria’s economy with pharmacoeconomics

By Chukwuma Muanya
31 October 2019   |   3:33 am
Worried about the volatile and unstable economic situation of the country, pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have advocated the adoption pharmaeconomics to reverse the trend.

President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa

*Society decries weak regulation of drugs by govt agencies, resurgence of fake medicines
Worried about the volatile and unstable economic situation of the country, pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have advocated the adoption pharmaeconomics to reverse the trend.

Pharmocoeconimics is the branch of pharmacy that speaks about the economics of pharmaceutical business and drug therapy. President, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, told The Guardian: “It speaks about cost, pricing and cost effectiveness. It compares the economy of using one drug or drug regime against another. It speaks about the convenience and length of administration of particular drug regimen against another. Thus in a volatile economy with shrinking disposable income, and low utilisation of health insurance, pharmacists need to understand this concept as they navigate the winds of the volatile economy.”

Ohuabunwa further stated: “The global economy is in a state of flux. American and Chinese Trade war is unraveling the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements. The oil market on which Nigeria depends has turned volatile and with problems brewing in the Middle East, between America and Iran on one hand and between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the other hand, Nigeria’s economy is on tethers.

“Nigeria’s domestic market is currently in bad shape, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth remains sluggish with a real threat to descend back to recession if the decline in oil prices are sustained and revenue accretion not substantially improved. And in the midst of all these, criminal activities across the Nation are shrinking the Nigerian market space and opportunities. This milieu presents critical challenge for the professional, who if not adequately prepared to respond, may follow the least line and either become delinquent or go out of business. It is to avoid both options that we have adopted the theme ‘Navigating winds of change in professional practice in a volatile economy.’”

The pharmacists said the society has chosen the theme for its International Conference tagged “the Crocodile City 2019” and scheduled in Kaduna from November 4 to 9, 2019. Ohuabunwa said it might not be entirely correct to say that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has weak regulation or to say that there is a resurgence of the circulation of fake drugs in the system.

He explained: “True, we will want NAFDAC, PSN and other regulatory agencies to do better than they are currently doing but I am aware of some of the challenges they are facing. Nigeria is a large country to regulate and the resources allocated or allowed for these agencies do not jive with the work they are expected to do. I am not making excuses for them but I am showing empathy because I have a fair idea of some of their issues.

“Nevertheless, the PSN is in regular interaction with them, giving advice and counsel on how they can improve regulation and I must say they have been generally receptive. There is no verifiable evidence that there is resurgence of fake drugs, even if the current level is unsatisfactory.”

The pharmacist said the less than five per cent allocation of the 2020 budget to health is not cheering. “But that is not my main concern. My concerns are: Will the allocation be fully cash-backed? That is will it be fully released?” he said.

Ohuabunwa further explained: “We have chronically demonstrated inability to fully fund our budget allocations to Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) even in the best of times, not to talk of now when we are suffering high levels of revenue shortfalls and have to depend on borrowing to meet expenditure plans.”

The pharmacist said it makes no sense to allocate even 20 per cent and then fund only 40 of the budget. “So let us fully fund this allocation and then it will make meaning to me to push for higher budget allocations. My second worry is the efficiency of utilisation. Again we have become notorious in wasting resources and misappropriating funds. If we can raise our efficiency level and prudently utilize the ‘small’ allocation, then we can achieve more with little,” the PSN President said.

Ohuabunwa faulted the implementation of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF). He said every well meaning healthcare professional should be pleased with the BHCPF, as it the best ploy to force the hands of the government to fund healthcare. He said it took ages to get the bill passed by the National Assembly (NASS) and it took a long time to get President Jonathan to sign into law. The pharmacist said implementation became an issue but they are glad President Buhari’s Government is pursuing the implementation albeit, half- heartedly.

Ohuabunwa said since the focus is on Primary Health Care (PHC) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), pharmacists are expected to be beneficiaries but unfortunately this has not happened for two reasons. He explained: “The NHIS as currently implemented is skewed against Community Pharmacists. The recommended fee for service concept will correct the imbalance. Secondly, the growing campaign to recognize community pharmacies as primary health centers, given their closeness to the families and communities will make pharmacists benefit more from the fund. And finally as long as drugs will be purchased with the fund, our industrial pharmacists will benefit.”

Ohuabunwa said the conference would also showcase research findings, new technologies, pharmaceutical products and consumables among other areas that would be addressed to ensure navigation to cushion and leverage on the disrupted practice environment.He said the Crocodile City 2019 conference holding next week affords researchers and producers opportunity to share information with the over 3,500 pharmacists that have registered for the conference. Ohuabunwa said some of the relevant information would also be made available to the lay public who attend the conference or who visit the exhibition.

The pharmacist added: “The faculties and Schools of Pharmacy in about 19 Nigerian universities are constantly carrying out research in drug discovery and pharmacodynamics; and the same with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID). Many pharmaceutical companies invest huge sums of money each year in drug research and innovation. The result is the body of literature speaking about these new discoveries.

“The conference provides opportunity for some of these new findings to be brought to the attention of pharmaceutical scientists and pharmacists. The pharmaceutical companies also use the conference to provide new information on their work to the healthcare community as well exhibiting new products and consumables which they have developed in the recent times.”

Ohuabunwa said for the professional pharmacist, there is no better opportunity to update his professional knowledge and be conversant with current development in the profession because the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) awards credit points on Continued Professional Education and Development to participants in the conference.

He said for the researchers and inventors, there is a great opportunity to disseminate their research findings and expose their inventions for adoption and commercial exploitation. The pharmacists said for the pharmaceutical companies and exhibitors, there is instant market to sell their products and services to the professionals who attend the conference. “There is great opportunity to cut deals. And importantly, contributions to policy development are made and resolutions adopted to strengthen the pharmaceutical profession and practice and to improve overall healthcare in our nation,” Ohuabunwa said.