Pharm. (Mrs.) Adeniran Bolanle F.O., Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos State Branch, has made a case for appointment of a Presidential Committee on Drug Distribution to sanitise the chaotic drug channels in the country.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the PSN Scientific Week at the Pharmacy Villa, Ogudi GRA, Lagos on August 22, 2019, Pharm. Adeniran said the call had become necessary because drug distribution had for long continued to be grounded in vacillations and had been at the whims and caprices of the vicissitudes of life which have almost snuffed life out of it.
She said that the reality today is that “we have made little or no progress in the quest to sanitise our distribution channels.”
“If we decide to call a spade a spade, the Federal Government actually needs to declare a state of emergency in the drug distribution bracket of our health sector to redress the unending cycle of unproductively.
“Even when the Pharmacy profession is famous as probably the most regulated endeavour in the land with legislations that are as old as over 132 years
Adeniran noted that under Obasanjo Presidency, a Presidential Committee was set up with requisite stakeholders to redress the ills of drug distribution with some seriousness.
She said the committee which was active till Jonathan era finally gave birth to the popular National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) with major recommendations to open new vista in drug wholesaling while emphasising an urgent need to seal all existing Open Drug Markets (ODM) in line with existing Acts of Parliament.
She lamented that four years after the first deadline was first announced by Mr. Linus Awute, the then Permanent Secretary and Acting Head of the Federal Ministry of Health in 2015, government has not been decisive on the closure of the obnoxious drug markets.
“In fact, the operations at the deadly Onitsha Head Bridge market are on record to have resisted monitoring and control by violently attacking a team of NAFDAC inspectors who routinely visited that market on an enforcement drive, without any accruing sanctions till now.
“One of the sore points in drug distribution remains Patent Medicine Vending in our clime. While we appreciate that there is an obvious dearth in all health services including pharma services and manpower, it appears as usual that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) through the powers that be is only interested in tackling the challenges in pharma sector probably because of the commercial propensities associated with pharmacy practice,” she said.
Adeniran explained that Patent Medicine Vending which was meant to be a stop gap mechanism in service rendition to people in underserved areas has become a huge albatross on the neck of Practising Pharmacists because it has become an endless means of easy access to all categories of medicines from OTCs to PIMs, POMs as well as dangerous drugs and narcotics which are never monitored because of severe logistics challenges the regulatory agencies suffer.
She said that ordinarily one would imagine that because healthcare is a globally inclined endeavour which promotes best practices, the norm would be to structure healthcare and pharmacy practice in particular on platforms obtainable in the global arena.
“What we see more and more is that NGOs and International donors continue to encourage scenarios whereby more abuses are perpetrated against the very people they set out to assist. This is because every measure that is focused on allowing persons other than Registered Pharmacists and other trained personnel like Pharmacy Technicians to dabble into the professional responsibility of sales and dispensing of drugs fundamentally jeopardises the aims and objectives of the National Drug Policy 2005 which is inclined to delivering safe, efficacious and affordable drugs to the people of Nigeria.
“It is therefore very imperative to call on the Federal Government that the reforms we need with Patent Medicine Vending must focus on allowing Pharmacy Technicians who are part of global pharmacy workforce to take care of Patent Medicine Vending in rural communities or other areas where service delivery is lacking in pharmaceutical services,” the Lagos PSN chairman said.
She attributed the poor state of affairs to obvious weak regulation as every effort aimed at ensuring a free for all disposition in the sales of drugs by people who do not have formal training as professionals or sub-professional cadre will only serve to boost the worsening incident of easy access to drugs with dire consequences which boost drug misuse and abuse as well as drug faking which all continue to combine to devalue the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and potentials of the pharmaceutical sector in the quest for national development and growth.
Consequently, the PSN Lagos State boss called for a Presidential Committee on Drug Distribution which would be headed by an experienced Registered Pharmacist not encumbered by the bureaucracy of the public service.
The proposed committee, she said, should have representatives of PCN, NAFDAC, PSN, ACPN, PMG-MAN, NIROPHARM and a key official of the Presidency not below the rank of a Director.
Pharm. Adeniran said, “We responsibly solicit that such a committee which shall have a timeline and Terms of Reference including:
.Enforcement of the spirit of NDDG with particular emphasis on strategies to attain closure of drug markets and achieve the movement to Co-ordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC) now approved in 7 city centres of Nigeria.
.Work out a sustainable reform in the business of Patent Medicine Vending by paying particular attention to the strict applicability of statutes in the enforcement window currently available in the pharmaceutical sector.
Ensuring the passage of Pharmacy Bill 2017 into an Act of Parliament that will rescue Pharmacy Practice which continues to sink albeit rapidly with the probability of complete extinction in Nigeria if the negative drift is not curbed soon enough.”
Pharm. Adeniran also called for the setting up of Workable Structures for Sustainable Healthcare System in Nigeria.
“In the last few months it has become very obvious that the JOHESU has become the major arrowhead in all efforts to restore dignity and pride to health workers apart from doctors through its unrelenting agitations.
“This fact is amplified by the reality that it is only JOHESU that has taken up the legal challenge of meeting the very desperate Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) (through a representation by a SAN), which is canvassing a strange concept of healthcare at Federal High Court, Abuja where it is attempting to be bestowed with professional rights and privileges to regulate Pharmacy practice and other health services contrary to the enabling Acts of Parliament as appropriate for the different professions in Nigeria.
“JOHESU had endured a tortuous Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) process which ordinarily should last for 12 weeks or 6 months. The gains at the ADR were very significant apart from the inability to secure a meaningful budget for the adjustment of CONHESS scale as was done for CONMESS scale since 2014, whopping 5 years and 8 months ago.
“We of PSN Lagos are aware that the JOHESU has been engaging the FMOH and we call on the FMOH to immediately release the Specialised Committee of Stakeholders including the representatives of JOHESU which was promised at its interaction with JOHESU leaders almost one month ago,” Adeniran said.
“For the records, we urge the FMOH to fast-track the activities of this committee which will deal with challenges including Central Internship Placement for all health professionals; Payment of outstanding skipping allowances and related benefits for JOHESU members; Implementation of report on payment of Specialist Allowances to Pharmacists and other eligible health workers; Forwarding of memo to increase retirement age of health workers from 60 - 65 years to the National Council of Establishment, and Staff audit in all Federal Health Institutions (FHIs) to pave way for the redress of under-employment of JOHESU members,” Pharm. Adeniran further stated.
The Lagos PSN boss also called on the Presidency to give the necessary go-ahead to the release of the withheld salaries of JOHESU members in April and May 2018 as it was clearly a selectively discriminatory act to persecute the health workers by wicked personality cults loyal to only the self serving interests of the profession they belong to in that dispensation.
She reminded the Federal Government that doctors in JUTH and LUTH have proceeded on strike after the 2018 strike of JOHESU members without their salaries being seized. This is apart from ASUU in the Education Sector which was not unduly punished by the Minister-in-charge.
“We strongly urge President Buhari to approve the estimated funds to actualise the adjustment of CONHESS circular as was done for CONMESS by the National Salary, Income and Wages Commission since 2017,” she said.
Pharm. Adeniran then urged her colleagues to be wary of a delusional messianic complex which has ravaged those in the profession, advising that only hard work, consistency and diligence laden in prayers would deliver pharmacy profession from the forces which have held it to ransom.