PSN urges FEC, minister to fast track approval for Pharm. D programme

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has urged the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to approve the Benchmark for Minimum Academic Standards (B-MAS) of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) programme canvassed by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. PSN urged Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, the Minister of Education, to fast track FEC’s approval for Pharmacy Doctoral Level training in Nigeria. 

The President of the society, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, made the appeal when he visited the minister in Abuja on Tuesday. Akintayo said: The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria solicits your immediate intervention and assistance to get the Federal Executive Council to approve the Benchmark for Minimum Academic Standards (B-MAS) of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) programme canvassed by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. It will be recalled that in January 2007, NUC stakeholders held a workshop on Pharm.D degree programme to chart the future direction of pharmacy education in Nigeria. 

Subsequently, the NUC in a letter with Reference number NUC/DQA/66 of April 10, 2007 addressed to the Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities and titled, Approval for the Award of Pharm. D Degree Option, directed: Consequently, universities that are interested in establishing the programme are by this letter requested to make a formal application to that effect to the NUC using the approved format. Consequently, the University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, became the first institution offering the Pharm.D degree, which commenced in 2001. It is a six-year undergraduate programme. Prior to the commencement of the programme, the university offered a five-year Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm) degree programme, which commenced in 1970, but was gradually phased out in 2008. 

In the Pharm.D programme, students are given extensive didactic preclinical/professional clinical preparation as well as clinical training in pharmaceutical care in various hospitals in the city. The government’s regulatory agency for pharmacy education, training and practice, the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN), and the national professional body of pharmacists, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), have envisaged that in the near future, Pharm.D degree will become the minimum educational qualification for fresh graduates of Nigeria’s pharmacy schools to be registered/licensed to practice in the country. The Pharm.D programme is also a standard practice in so many countries all over the world including; Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Canada, United States, Brazil and Chile. 

Currently, Pharm.D is a six to seven years course being offered in Ghana, which started in the academic year 2012/2013 notably by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, leading to the award of Doctor of Pharmacy and a pharmacist licensure to operate. The University of Nairobi offers a six-eight year Pharmacist education programme. During the first four years, students focus on studying Pharmaceutical science. The last two years are considered clinical residency in which students practice clinical pharmacy at various hospitals and community pharmacies before they graduate. However, in May 30, 2014 NUC made a swift turn in its directive and withdrew withdrew its approval of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D) Degree, as a first degree for Pharmacy students. But, the PSN President, in a quick reaction had said that NUC did not cancel the Pharm.D programme, but rather withdrew its accreditation in UniBen, because the University refused to answer a query from NUC dated January 2014. 

Akintayo further said that the various stakeholders in the pharmacy industry were working to redress the dimensions of drawbacks to put in place a format that is procedurally acceptable to the NUC. Speaking at the Tuesday visit the Minister of Education, he appealed to FEC to facilitate speedy actualisation of Pharm.D programme in Nigerian Universities. His words: “It is also imperative that I strongly appeal to all members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to speedily approve the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) of this programme which is pending for their adoption.” Akintayo said the Pharm.D Programme does not seek to take anything away from any other health related discipline neither is it in conflict with any of the health disciplines, rather it complements the roles of the healthcare team members and provides a wide window of opportunities that can best communicate the new values, philosophy and vision of the profession. 

According to him, advanced training prepares pharmacists to assume patient care roles within the health care team in order to meet the increasing demands of health care delivery. In the US, the first major step toward educational advancement was the transition from the Bachelor of Science degree to Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) as entry-level for pharmacy practice. The Pharm. D curriculum provides pharmacists with specialised clinical training that focuses on the development of professional competencies and confidence in the provision of evidence-based patient-oriented care. While stressing the need for the approval of Pharmacy Doctoral Level training in Nigeria, the PSN boss reasoned that the practice of pharmacy has evolved over the years with significant growth and development mirroring the trends in health care delivery. Days are gone when the role of pharmacist was restricted to simple apothecary, druggist or chemist by extemporaneously compounding and formulating medicinal products for wholesale or personal use by consumers. 

Today, the sector has grown to become large-scale regulated pharmaceutical manufacturer. Akintayo said: Traditionally, the pharmacist fulfilled the role of apothecary, druggist or chemist by extemporaneously compounding and formulating medicinal products for wholesale or personal use by consumers. These activities have become limited as a result of the emergence of large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturing and the introduction of new regulatory standards. He further explained that the responsibilities of the pharmacist have grown from the traditional roles of dispensing and compounding, to collaborative medication management with physicians and other health care professionals to ensure optimal health outcomes. He pledge that PSN will continue partnering with the Federal Ministry of Education as it champions education reforms in our country. 

Responding, Shekarau said that health was a serious issue while the services of pharmacist were vital to the survival of society, especially in regulating the use of drugs and checking drug abuse. Also, during a recent   courtesy call on the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Julius Amioba Okojie, the Chairman PCN, Mr. Bruno Nwankwo, in his remarks on Pharm.D programme said: “As a regulatory body established by Act 91 of 1992 (now Cap P17, LFN, 2004) and charged with the responsibility of regulating and controlling pharmacy education, training and practice in all aspects and ramifications in this country, the Council considers it proper to make representation to the NUC on the issue. 

“It is instructive to note that the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Benin, Benin City complied with the PCN directive and has since commenced the programme while the PCN has formally communicated to the NUC to enquire for update on Pharm.D programme. ”Furthermore in December 2007, an NUC Resource Verification visit to the University of Benin took place and the institution was informed of additional resources that need to be put in place for Pharm.D programme,” he added. The PCN Chairman said the need to administer Pharm.D programme in Nigerian Universities became necessary for several reasons: 

* Internationally, because of the changing roles of the Pharmacist, the Federation of International Pharmacists (FIP) had since directed that Pharm.D programme should be the minimum registrable qualification to practice Pharmacy. 

*The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) held meetings involving teachers and practitioners of Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing as well as their regulatory bodies (including those from Nigeria) and recommended to the WAHO Council of Ministers that Pharm. D degree should replace the B. Pharm. Degree in the universities in the West African Region, both anglophone and francophone countries; 

*The importance the World Health Organization (WHO) attaches to the role of the Pharmacist in healthcare gave birth to the famous resolution of the 47th World Health Assembly (WHA 47:12) held on the 10th of May, 1994 and titled Role of the Pharmacist in support of the WHO revised drug strategy. The resolution further recognized the need to place premium on re-orientation of pharmacists through training modalities to properly position them for emerging roles in public health and particularly in the field of medicines. 

Nwankwo said the changing roles of pharmacists have benefited several countries that have adopted Pharm. D degree in healthcare services improvement and the quality of lives of patients. He further explained: This is because Pharm.D programme emphasizes the patient rather than the product as the focus of the service. Hence, in such scenario, the pharmacist is physically present and professionally active to contribute to the positive outcomes of drug therapy. In addition, he is able to save drug costs and to avoid unnecessary wastages because of his intervention at the right time before drug administration. After drug administration, he also monitors the action of the drug and the response of the patient as well as making necessary interventions to minimize drug-related problems. None of these roles encroach on roles of other healthcare practitioners, including medical doctors. Former PSN President, Mr. Anthony Akhimien, also said recently: It should be noted that on announcement of the approval of Pham D in Nigerian Universities, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and their Private Medical Practitioners Group put up a protest that the approval was going to encroach into their practice. 

“The matter stretched into the public court through an interesting debate. “A publication by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the positive response by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in the print and electronic media that Pharm.D is the norm as a first degree programme in most part of the world put the matter to rest.” However, PSN has insisted that there is urgent need for FEC to speedily approve the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) of this programme which is pending for their adoption. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on April 25,  2015.


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