By: Chioma Umeha
Nigerians who are in the habit of buying drugs and other forms of medications at pharmaceutical shops without doctor’s prescription and the authentication of a qualified pharmacist may no longer be allowed to do so.
This is because life imprisonment now awaits any person found engaging in counterfeit and fake drugs in the country, if the proposed legislation before members of the House of Representatives which sails through. The proposed policy, under proposition, would take prompt implementation in the country whenever the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) is reconstituted, as the plan cannot be implemented without the council. This development formed the thrust of the deliberations of members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) at their 86th annual conference tagged “Harmony 2013” holding in Ilorin, Kwara from Nov 5-8. The PSN National President, Olumide Akintayo, has therefore called on the Federal Ministry of Health to complete its initiatives of beginning efforts at launching a formal prescription policy for Nigeria. Speaking at the event with the theme; “Evolving Best Practices in Patient Care,” he noted that nothing constitutes a prescription in both the technical and professional context in Nigeria today, adding that the situation had encouraged the infamous menace of prescribing pharmacists and dispensing doctors.
However, all these will change as the new Bill has stipulated stiff punishments for erring consumers. It prescribes that any person found wanting is liable to a maximum fine not exceeding N10 million or to a life imprisonment or to such fine and imprisonment. And at the least, on conviction, not exceeding N5 million or to a term of not less than seven years or to both, such fine and imprisonment depending on the magnitude of the offence. Besides, it stipulates that where an offence has been committed by a body corporate, every person who at the time of the commission of the offence, as well as the body corporate shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be prosecuted and punished accordingly. Akintayo also said: “A need therefore arises to consciously begin to work toward separation of professional roles as the global norm is to ensure that both the prescriber and dispenser of medicines do not have pecuniary gains or advantage.” The PSN boss said the ultimate methodology of the policy should facilitate the generation of formalised/personalised prescription pads with the professional registration numbers of the prescriber who could be a registered medical practitioner, registered dentist, registered veterinary surgeon and alternate medicine practitioner through the MDCN or other appropriate regulatory council.
He added that all such personalised prescriptions would be filled by registered pharmacists who would affix their professional stamps and seals with the PCN registration number. “The need to sanitise prescribing and dispensing endeavours which is one of the dimensions in the chaotic drug distribution network can certainly not be over-emphasised in the public interest,” the PSN President stated. The National President said: “the PSN in recent times has embarked on almost an unprecedented level of advocacy visit and media blitz as reflected in the society’s report and other presentations, which we shall further showcase at conference.” Akintayo said: “Today we have initiated PSN ID cards and membership certificates, commenced professional studies, instituted redress of offensive statures against pharmacy practice, laid the basis for the use of professional stamps and seals in the evolving national prescription policy and have advanced plans for the inauguration of the pharmacy academy. “Delays in the reconstitution of the PCN caused some drawbacks in our plans to fine-tune drug pricing, which we hope the new drug distribution guidelines will help bring to a more stable and harmonious regime. The establishment of our National Postgraduate College of Pharmacy, one of our long term projects, is on the cards even as we continue to prioritize our deliverables.”
Other issues Akintayo addressed were the Yayale Ahmed Committee for Harmony in the Health sector and welfare of public sector pharmacists, which he commended and the agenda for the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. His words: “We are aware of the President’s interest in restoring harmony in the health sector and this must have led to setting up of a Presidential Committee inaugurated personally by him to re-evaluate the Gusau Committee report. We note the calibre of persons appointed on the Committee and urge them to embrace the principles of equity, justice and fair play in conducting this noble exercise.” Noting that PSN is aware of the National Industrial Court judgment on skipping of CONHESS 10, Akintayo urged government to withdraw the circular of the Federal Ministry of Health on non-skipping and this should be given administrative teeth immediately. He also called on the Yayale Ahmed Committee, which he said would hopefully establish a new foundation for a health sector presently in tatters, to embrace international best practices in the management of public health workers.
Akintayo commended President Goodluck Jonathan for reconstituting the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) which in real terms had been non-existent since November 2007. The PSN boss said the practice environment got to a most wretched and sad level in the period before the board was reconstituted. He also commended the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu for ensuring due process in the reconstitution of the PCN board. He hailed the appointment of Mr. Bruno Nwankwo as the chairman of the board. He said: “In addition to this expected boom in inspectorate activities, the PCN must commence the production of professional stamps and seals for registered pharmacists to meet some goals of the much anticipated National Prescription Policy. To realize these shifts to a next level, all players in organised pharmacy must be prepared for a review in statutory fees, the lean financial times notwithstanding.” Akintayo noted that the challenges of the approved Pharm. D programme was yet another important objective the PCN must realise, adding that the pre-registration exams for intern pharmacists must commence in earnest as a new generation of pharmacists is raised, who can compete globally.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 9, 2013.