July 10, 2024

Community pharmacists push for national prescription policy to improve healthcare

Community pharmacists worry over exposure of Nigerians to falsified medicines

Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria

By Chioma Obinna

The Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) is advocating for the establishment of a National Prescription Policy (NPP) to address widespread problems in how medications are prescribed and dispensed in the country.

In a letter to the Health Minister and titled ‘ A National Prescription Policy for Nigeria’, ACPN chairman Wale Oladigbolu highlighted the global importance of proper drug handling and the potential risks of unqualified prescribing. He noted existing regulations but argued a dedicated NPP is urgently needed.

Currently, only doctors, dentists and veterinarians can prescribe medication, dispensed by licensed pharmacists. However, the reality is that unqualified individuals are also involved, raising public health concerns.

The letter signed by the National Chairman of ACPN, Wale Oladigbolu and the National Secretary of the association, Omokhafe Ashore also highlighted why the prescription Policy should be in place.

The duo argued that it is globally accepted that drug use constitutes a significant aspect of health care and that the handling of drugs in all its ramifications, particularly the production, distribution, prescription and dispensing of drugs could have a positive or negative impact on the health care delivery system and the health of the population.

The ACPN wants the NPP to standardize prescription formats and improve monitoring within the healthcare system. They believe this will ensure medications are prescribed by qualified professionals and dispensed safely.

The Ministry of Health is already developing the NPP, and the ACPN is urging a swift conclusion. They also recommend involving relevant bodies like the Pharmaceutical Society and Medical Association in finalizing the policy and propose appointing qualified pharmacist and medical consultants to oversee implementation.

The expected benefits include reduced inappropriate drug use, improved patient safety, and better public health outcomes.

They noted that the prescribing and dispensing of medicines are regulated by laws of the Federal Government, especially the PPA Cap 535 LFN1990 and the PCN Act 2022.

“Some efforts made by the Federal Government as regards prescribing and dispensing of medicines in the recent past include the introduction of the National Drug Policy (NDP) and the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs).

The duo however affirmed that there is an urgent need for a National Prescription Policy (NPP) which the Federal Ministry of Health & Social Welfare (FMoH&SW) is currently undertaking.

What current law says

The current law regarding prescribing medicines in Nigeria states that only a trained medical doctor, dentist or veterinary doctor may prescribe medicines. Likewise, such prescriptions can only be dispensed by a registered pharmacist from a registered premise.

Unfortunately, they lamented that the reality of prescribing and dispensing medicines in Nigeria is such that both licensed healthcare professionals and charlatans are prescribing and dispensing medicines, sometimes with dire consequences.

Other climes

It’s important to state that in developed countries, the prescribing and dispensing process is carried out by an appropriate practitioner who can be medical doctors, veterinary doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and nurses. Some pharmacists and nurses are also granted limited prescription rights under strict conditions/written guidelines/protocol after undergoing a strict, rigorous training programme.
“Most of the dispensing in developed countries is carried out by registered pharmacists in registered premises, but doctors and nurses are allowed to dispense certain medications within a written protocol. These processes, in addition to the implementation of electronic prescribing, has increased access of patients to healthcare professionals and ensures that patients are receiving appropriate medical care.

The ACPN however listed various factors contributing to inappropriate and illegal prescribing and dispensing of drugs in Nigeria to include inability of patients to afford doctor’s consultation fees; lack of a structured National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) that patients can benefit from; access of the public to appropriately qualified and registered healthcare professionals especially in the rural areas; inadequate healthcare facilities; poor government funding of the healthcare industry; high level of illiteracy among the populace; and lack of enforcement of the law governing prescribing and dispensing of medicines.

Others are lack of a professional working partnership between healthcare professionals; lack of standardisation of prescriptions with no way to verify the prescription being presented; and inadequate planning and monitoring.

They expressed hope that the relevant players will synergise their efforts with a view to evolving a working NPP in the public interest as currently championed by the National Prescription Policy Committee of the FMoH&SW. They further proposed that the FMoH&SW should appoint a pharmaceutical consultant who must be a registered pharmacist and a medical consultant who must be a licenced medical practitioner within the purview of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) Act 2022 and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN Act.

“Minister, we strongly urge you to continue to walk on the path of progress the FMoH&SW has embarked on with regards to the NPP project.”