Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
Mrs Antonia Aruya is the Director, Inspection and Monitoring, of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN). In this interview with Daily Sun in Bauchi, Aruya spoke on the recent operation by her team in Bauchi, where some 565 patent medicine stores and six pharmacies were sealed for violating laid down rules of the council.
Aruya said the enforcement activity in Bauchi was in fulfilment of the council mandate in PCN ACT Cap 17, LFN, 2005 and also in line with the National Drugs Distribution of the Federal Government (NDDG), where: “Any premises found selling above their scope of operation such as sale of dispensing of ethical products without the presence of superintendent pharmacists or handling of controlled medicines by none pharmacists is operating in violation of the law,” she said.
What is the fate of the 571 patent medicine stores and pharmacies recently sealed in Bauchi State by your Council?
I want to state categorically that the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria is not punitive in its activities. We are corrective. We are here to put things in order and guide the stakeholders so that those who are ready to practice according to the guidelines that have been set for them are guided through until they do what is necessary. Of course, the next step is not just good enough to just come to a state and close the shops and go away. We are going to take them through a process and that process is in alignment with the usual process that people that submit to regulations would necessarily go through. People wake up one morning and just open shop. That is not acceptable. There are guidelines to be followed. We have to screen those that have the capacity to handle those medicines. After this exercise, we are going to go through the process of looking at the various shops and pharmacies in greater details and we are going to strengthen those that need to be strengthened, tell them what to do; those things they are not doing right we will correct them and for those that have no business to handle medicine either by virtue of the fact that they do not have training or capacity, or certain inadequacies that will not qualify them to handle medicines. In a nutshell somebody that cannot read and write is not in a position to handle medicine.
Additionally, we have in every state of the federation two committees of the Pharmacist Council. One is the Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee and the other one is the Patent and Propriety Vendor Committee. Those two committees are headed by the Director Pharmaceutical Services of the states. They go around to guide people through the process of either you want to open a shop or you want to open a pharmacy. It is only people that have gone through those processes that we can guarantee can offer good services to the public so any person that has not gone through the process of going through the activities of those committees is doing that to the detriment of the public and we are there to safe guide the public. The committees, even if we have finished our assignments in the states will still work with us to make sure that what we started will be seen to a logical conclusion. So, there is always work in progress as far as the regulation of pharmaceutical outlets are concern.
Is the Council doing enough in the area of sensitisation?
Yes, from the national level from time to time we do put out information to the public but at the state level aside from information that may be put across from the committees, from the zonal office or from the office or the Director of Pharmaceutical Services, we have an instrument of Council or tool that we also use to pass information to the stakeholders within the sector and one of them is the orientation programme. The orientation programme is for every one that goes through the process, that wants to engage in Pharmacy business or practice. During the course of that orientation programme for PPN, they are given proper training and orientation of how to manage the shops that they eventually open. And then we also have what we called continuous education programme which further reinforce whatever we have taught them at the orientation stage and that goes on for two years. We have town hall meetings. We have zonal meetings where the stakeholders are also informed about the current trends in the practice. So yes, at the Council level we have sensitisations at various levels that is on-going.
What is the fate of the person arrested for allegedly removing the seal of the Pharmacists Council from his shop?
Remember I told you that the council is not punitive but corrective but when somebody goes out of his way to disregard constituted authority, you always know that nobody is above the law. If the law decides that you are in violation of it and places a hold on your facility you don’t have a right to break the seal of the federal.
When you break a seal of the federal government you are committing what is called a criminal offence. So, we have no choice but to arrest that person. What we are saying is that any other person that breaks our seal in Bauchi State will go through that process. We will make sure that the law is brought to bear to make sure that that kind of action is not repeated. That is the offence the person has done and we are
going to prosecute him.
What do you have to say on the regulation of indigenous medicine?
As at date, traditional medicine is under a directorate in the federal ministry of health that deals with matter that have to do with traditional medicine We are not directly regulating them.
How does the public know what category of drug that a pharmacy is supposed to handle?
There is a very big divide between the pharmacy who is a complete professional and experts in drugs and everything that has to do with drugs, the production, the use, the adverse effect, contradiction- everything that derives from that medicines. On the other hand, you have the PCN so if you see a pharmacy, when you get into that pharmacy asked of the pharmacist. Secondly his personal license and the certificate of premises registration. Is supposed to be conspicuously displayed for the person to see so if you are in doubt ask of the pharmacist and the pharmacist will give you proper guidance on two to use your medicines. That is for the pharmacists. For the Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendors, they have a certificate that we issue to them and they are also supposed to displace that certificate and also, we have what we called approved Medicine list. The Federal Government has selected the number of medicines that the Patent and Propriety Medicine Vendors can handle by virtue of the fact that they don’t have the type of training that the Pharmacists has gone through. The medicines they can handle are those that have proven safety margin, things like Paracetamol, Vitamin C, simple things like that. Of course, we update that list from time to time when the need arises.
When you get into a patent medicine store, what they normally call Chemists, those Chemists are not supposed to sell ethical products or prescription medicines or controlled substances. They are not supposed to handle them. The controlled substances are supposed to be handled only by the pharmacists and when I mean handle, it is the Pharmacist that will buy it, that will store nit under lock and key, that will dispense it and od all the documentation that have to do with prescribed medicine. But for prescription medicines the pharmacist must be on ground to supervised the dispensing of such medicines. So, it is clear between the Chemist and the Pharmacist. If there is no pharmacist on ground then know that that place is not supposed to be selling prescription medicines or controlled substances.
What is the qualification for opening a patent medicine store?
Well, there are guideless which is in the public domain but I will just mention them. One, anybody that is desirous of having a patent medicine store must have secondary school certificate, must be able to read and write and understand what is written and so on, He must be above 21 years of age , he will submit himself to screening where sometimes there is written exam and finally an orientation training.
If after that orientation training he passed everything, then he is qualified to open a patent medicine shop.