By Chioma Obinna
To mark this year’s World Pharmacists Day with the theme: “Pharmacy United in action for a healthier world”, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, said the potential of Nigerian pharmacists can be harnessed to transform the ailing Nigerian economy, as well as help, set the country on a recovery path.
In a presentation issued to mark the day, the PSN noted that the global Pharmaceutical industry is worth about 1.42 trillion dollars and the same industry in some countries is worth more than the Nigerian Annual Budget, adding that if Nigeria’s Pharmaceutical sector is well nurtured and adequately catered for, it will be repositioned to do exploit.
“We observed that in the last five years, almost 5,000 Pharmacists have emigrated to Canada and the UK for greener pastures just like all other healthcare workers and indeed new generations of Nigerians. Of the about 50,000 Pharmacists produced in Nigeria, less than 20,000 practice in the country, meaning that well over 50 per cent of Nigerian Pharmacists practice abroad.
The PSN also stressed that a Pharmacoeconomic colloquium was imperative. “An economic forum comprising leaders of Pharmacy in the private and government levels on the one hand, and on the other, all government ministries, departments and agencies involved in economic planning, forecasting and implementation. This should be geared toward developing a national master plan for a pharmacy sector revolution to generate exponential revenue by harnessing the abundant potential of the sector.”
On how pharmacists can help transform Nigeria, the PSN said the involvement of pharmacists will ensure a healthy populace. “The bottom line of the intervention of pharmacists is to improve people’s quality of life. Studies show that when pharmacists are involved in patient care, medication errors are drastically reduced, patients spend less money and time in the hospital, the risk of death and disability is minimal and a healthier workforce is guaranteed for the nation.
“It is on record that billions of dollars were saved for the US economy through the activities of pharmacists. Think of what a billion dollars can do for Nigeria.
“There has been neither mention nor commendation of pharmacists for the yeoman’s job they did during the COVID-19 pandemic. The undocumented interventions of Community Pharmacists helped the populace immensely and the coverage rate was estimated at about 54.5 per cent by the PSN research unit. Community Pharmacists even at the risk of their own lives intensified wellness strategies by ensuring that Nigerians had access to medications.”
The PSN also noted that their members can also provide leadership due to their rigorous training prepared them to take on various challenges.
“Pharmacists have been known to excel in other fields including banking, telecoms, InfoTech, Management, Journalism, Logistics, Politics etc. One, therefore, wonders why the Ministry of Health is fighting against a bill from the National Assembly seeking to open up the headship of Federal Health Institutions to other professionals and break the monopoly of leadership by Medical doctors under whose watch by the way Nigeria’s health indices have worsened progressively over the last few decades.
“A few pharmacists have given Nigeria a glimpse into the leadership potential of Nigerian pharmacists. These include Julius Adelusi Adeluyi, Dora Akunyili, Fidelia Njeze, Danbaba Suntai, Sadiq Umar, Hamza Sakwa, Matthew Urhoghide and others who have served as Governors, ministers, directors general, legislators etc from as far back as 1975. If pharmacists can handle these positions, they can also handle the headship of federal health institutions and other responsibilities.
“With proper incentives from the government, local drug manufacturers can improve tremendously. Medicine security is an issue in Nigeria, with a significant amount of medications used in Nigeria being imported. With local manufacturing, drugs will be cheaper, more available and better controlled with less capital flight, even earning forex via export.
“The Federal Government has taken a good step in this direction by inviting local manufacturers to bid for the production of medications used in the country’s health insurance but much more needs to be done. Of course, increase manufacturing means more employment opportunities and a reduction in the problem of unemployment.
“The discovery of artemisinin contributed enormously to China’s economy because apart from investing in R&D, the government also gave diplomatic backing to the product resulting in a global acceptance and adoption of Artemisinin Combination Therapies ACTs as the mainstay in malaria treatment.
“The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD a brainchild of PSN has been involved in the development of original molecules and medication for several conditions especially Nicosan for Sickle Cell Anemia. Many herbal remedies exist in Nigeria, with some herbalists possessing original, unique and efficacious formulas for treating a variety of ailments. Some extremely rare ancient knowledge handed down to generations of herbalists has been lost because there was no platform transforming them from the crude often undocumented forms to modern forms.
Being well-educated professionals and very close to the people in their communities, pharmacists are available to mentor the impressionable and guide youths to make good choices. The pharmacist is a general practitioner trained to do what he can and refer appropriately for what he cannot or is not supposed to do. Many lives have been saved because the pharmacist, who is often the first port of call for patients recognized conditions of varying severities and dispatched them to specialists with covering notes.
The PSN maintained that strengthening the role of Pharmacies as primary healthcare providers will help bring some order to our health system.
“One of the greatest challenges bedevilling Tertiary Health institutions in Nigeria, apart from the overwhelming number of clients and a small number of medical personnel is the fact that over 60 per cent of their patrons have minor issues like malaria and others that can be effectively managed at the primary level. This means that those with more serious, life-threatening issues wait longer to see the doctors as they contend with others with minor ailments and may even collapse before it gets to their turn.
The PSN said that as pharmacists worldwide celebrate world pharmacists day (September 25), Pharmacists in Nigeria once again engage in several activities across the country to call attention to the amount of work they do and the enormous potential in the sector. In the past, Pharmacists and the Pharmacy profession were often overlooked when health issues were discussed or planned in just about every level of our national lives. This was despite the huge work being done and the greater difference that can be made with greater involvement. Today, it is not much different but one or two heads of government agencies have expressed willingness to partner with pharmacists and the results are rewarding. An example is a partnership with the NPHCDA.
The PSN said to celebrate World Pharmacists Day, the society will be engaging in a wide range of activities including health outreaches, rallies or walks, radio and TV programmes, symposia or seminars etc to continue to educate and sensitise the public on health issues, create awareness of the duties and functions of pharmacists, encourage the populace to take advantage of and get more from their pharmacists, and show leaders of government agencies how pharmacists can help improve the country’s health indices and hopefully drive policy changes, among others.
This year’s World Pharmacist’s Day theme is Pharmacy United in action for a healthier world.