Pharmacist Mrs. Adeniran Bolanle is the Chairman of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos State. She retired in 2015 from the Lagos State Health Service Commission, and subsequently won the election for chairmanship of the association two years ago.
As key stakeholder in the healthcare sector, widespread abuse and misuse of drugs in the country prompted her to mobilise stakeholders’ engagement on how to curb the outrageous menace threatening the future of the country’s teeming youths population.
In this interview with our correspondent, she takes on the raging issue of drugs abuse and misuse. According to her, implementing the national drug distribution guideline beginning from January 1, 2019 will help in ensuring safety of drugs in the system. But even if the policy to address chaotic drug distribution gets further delayed beyond January 1, 2019, there are other critical measures to stem the menace.
The Lagos State PSN boss highlights some of the measures, what the PSN is doing to end the social malaise, reasons why pharmacist are not investing in drugs manufacturing, and other topical issues to move the pharmaceutical sector forward.
Problems bedeviling pharmaceutical sector
There are a lot of problems bedeviling the profession. But the most critical problems are chaotic drug distribution, drug abuse and misuse, and the grave impact on the youth population of the country. Why are we so concerned about drug abuse and misuse?
As parents and Nigerians we at the PSN are particularly worried that our youths are turning to vegetables. What future do we have as a country where youths are wasting away through drug abuse and misuse? The future is very bleak. As a mother, I’m seriously concerned. And as a professional, I’m deeply worried. The problem has gone too far, to the extent of substance abuse. So if urgent steps are not taken the country will not have any future to talk about.
Measures PSN is taking to address the problems
In addition to the solutions discussants at the just concluded ‘Pharmacy Week’ have proffered, PSN Lagos will continue to talk about drug abuse and misuse until the desired result is achieved. We will continue to campaign against this growing menace.
We have mandated our members wherever they are to embark on an onslaught against the menace: in their various zones, communities, hospitals, etc. Anywhere they may be, their mandate is campaign against drug abuse and misuse.
Also, we are going to work with regulatory agencies directly involved in working out solutions to the problem. We will work with them; assist them to achieve the desired results.
That is why we brought NAFDAC, the key agencies involved in drugs control and administration, and the PCN, government regulatory agency for pharmaceutical sector. If the two agencies work jointly with the PSN, we will be able to achieve at least 50 percent success in curbing the menace.
We will encourage the creation of rehabilitation centres which is the responsibility of government. We also encourage the churches and mosques to work and pray against the menace. It is part of religious evangelism to rescue those in problems such as this one. We’re going to get the personnel that will manage this campaign for us. The government and the spiritual leaders will also be involved.
Implementing national drugs distribution guideline, key to curbing drug abuse and misuse
Government with all stakeholders has concluded plans to commence implementation of the national drug distribution policy on January 1, 2019. God willing, if policy is in place it will help us to achieve our target result of ensuring safety of drugs in the system.
Even if the planned implementation is further delayed beyond the new January deadline, we can still pull some strings if the regulatory agencies jointly do what they have been established to do in collaboration with us. Then the menace of drug abuse will be curbed if not stamped out completely. We urge the government to empower the regulators adequately to carry out their roles and duties.
Before our tenure elapses, we hope to achieve a lot more. Presently, we have been able to strengthen the relationship between the regulatory agencies and us, practitioners. We hope to come together and fashion out solutions to all our problems. That’s one of our aims and objectives, and we’re already actualizing it. Today, PCN, NAFDAC, and PSN are all working together. We the PSN, are mobilising and facilitate dialogue among the three of us. We will make the environment more cordial for us to be able to work together.
But some of your members give cover to some patent medicine dealers. How do you deal with this case?
Yes, they do. If I say otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing justice to myself. There’s no profession that doesn’t have its own bad eggs. For any pharmacist worth his onions, he should know that the safety of lives is partly in his or her hands. We’re the custodians of these drugs, and we should know that we’re expected to do everything possible to ensure that the drugs in our custody are not mishandled. If we turn out to be the ones giving cover and protection to drugs misuse, then it’s too bad.
As for how to deal with it, we encourage the regulatory agencies to do their monitoring and enforcement properly. If they do so, they will be able to apprehend all our members involved in the act and discipline them accordingly. But if they also are not doing what they are created by law to do the menace will continue. I know that some of them are not professionals in the real sense of the word. They are mere businessmen who are only interested in the money they are going to make and that’s all.
So, we are challenging the regulators to do much more. As a professional group, we don’t have the power to deal with the bad eggs among us. But government regulatory agencies have the power to prosecute them. We can only work with them to ensure that sanity is maintained in the industry.
Why pharmacist are not investing in drugs manufacturing?
We all know what the economic situation of the country is today. The economy does not encourage investments. How available is electricity supply? The basic needs of the society are not even available in the country. Many homes have provided boreholes for themselves. Nobody is waiting on government to provide water any more. It’s appalling that many people now spend money to provide for themselves what the government ought to have provided. What’s government all about? It’s all about welfare of the citizens. That’s why we have elected leaders in power. Let them provide the basic things that can make people survive. But they have not been able to do so. So I don’t blame anybody who resort to importing the products. It’s even cheaper to import the finished products.
If we have the requisite infrastructure, we will invest and produce most pharmaceutical products locally. In fact, we prefer the local manufacturers to those who go abroad to import, in some cases, low quality products. We can monitor local manufacturers and deal with them. Unlike some importers who would even give specific instructions to foreign manufacturers to reduce the quality with the sole aim to make inordinate profit. Our own people would go there and instruct them to put 10ml instead of 100ml, and in some cases, they ask them not to put any thing at all other than mere powder just because they want to make money. But if the drugs are coming from a local company here in Nigeria, then we will be able to monitor and deal with them when they go wrong. There will be report if there’s problem. But there’s nothing like that now.