By Chioma Obinna
The Federal Government has been urged to decidedly tackle problems of drug distribution and utilisation in the country to ensure that Nigerians have access to safe and efficacious pharmaceutical products.
Making the call in Lagos, a renowned pharmacist, Pharm. Lolu Ojo, said the standard of pharmacy practice in Nigeria is below world standard because of the poor drug regulation and control.
Ojo, who spoke during the Greater Pharmacists’ Youth Congress organised by the Greater Pharmacy Initiative, said the problem of drugs in the country was a combination of factors including lack of research, procurement, dispensing and pharmaceutical care, among others.
He stated: “For instance, drugs like codeine and tramadol which are good drugs are abused because they end up in wrong hands. What we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg because everybody is handling drugs and Nigerians are not better off for it.”
Stressing that it is time to raise the bar and ensure that the man on the street benefits from it, Ojob continued: “Three days ago at the Nigeria Academy of Science, somebody came from abroad to discuss on how he was able to extract anti-cancer drug from bitter leaf that we eat everyday. The drug is even working better than the most expensive drugs for cancer,” he stated.
On her part, the Youth Convener and Consultant, Public Health, Pharm. Chovwe Emaniru said Nigerian pharmacists are yet to get on the same level with their counterparts in developed countries.
“We are gradually taking our position. There are global best practices, but we are not yet there. We want pharmacists in Nigeria to get to that level because the patient deserves the best and we are here to give pharmaceutical care of all sorts to Nigerians.”
She explained that the interactive forum was to bring pharmacists from different sectors together for mentorship as well as enlighten them about their career development.
They urged Nigerians to desist from buying drugs from open sources but only from registered pharmacies with the green cross RX sign.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Olukemi Odukoya urged Nigeria and other African countries to exploit the potentials of nature as medicine.
“Pharmacy started with herbs, most of pharmaceutical dosage forms have their origin in herbs either directly as medicines or as templates to ensure less toxicity.
The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 19 per cent of medicines in sub-Saharan Africa are either fake or substandard. Also, the economic impact of pharmaceuticals is substantial – especially in a developing country like Nigeria. While spending on pharmaceuticals represents less than one-fifth of total public and private health spending in most developed countries, it represents 15 to 30 per cent of health spending in transitional economies and 25 to 66 per cent in developing countries.
In most low income countries, pharmaceuticals are the largest public expenditure on health after personnel costs and the largest household health expenditure. And the expense on serious family illnesses, including drugs, is a major cause of household impoverishment.