Forex Scarcity: 70% Of Local Medicines Disappears From Pharmacies
•Sector, Not Major Contributor To Nation’s GDP – Yakasai
By Chioma Umeha
There is growing anxiety that indigenous medicines are fast disappearing from the shelves of pharmacies in Nigeria as scarcity of foreign exchange lingers.
Raising the concern were pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) who alerted that 70 per cent of medicines manufactured, marketed, used, and dispensed in Nigeria are becoming near inaccessible.
PSN identified why the pharmaceutical sector, which is valued at over $2 billion is not a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Some of the reasons identified by the pharmacists at the PSN’s 89th Annual National Conference, held recently, in Minna, Niger State, are rampant Substandard, Spurious, Falsely Labelled, Falsified, and Counterfeit (SSFFC), limited numbers of qualified pharmacists to ensure that community and clinical pharmacy are at the heart of primary and secondary health care, implementing National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) in 2017, and reversing the trend of poor access to medicines.
Commenting, President, PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, in his address said: “We are facing one of the most challenging economic climates ever witnessed, alongside increasing anxieties about disease outbreaks and rising poverty. As an industry, we have a risk exposure of approximately 70 per cent of medicines that we manufacture, market, use, and dispense, mostly becoming near inaccessible due to an unprecedented highly priced US Dollar. These are dynamics that must be reversed if our industry is to stay afloat and we are to stay true to the fundamental vision and ethos of ensuring access to medicine by our growing population.
“We must also recognise that despite our estimated operational value of over $2 billion, our industry is yet to be a notable contribution to our nation’s GDP. The complexities of our demography – substantial ageing alongside a youthful population within an estimated over 180 million people with complex disease profiles – are indications of the need for us to revisit our practice model and industry positioning. All these are situated in a non-sophisticated health economy and systems. Our pharmacy profession and industry appear to be catching the flu just with a few sneezes by our social and economic environments. We sure need some remedy and fast.”
He challenged members to be fully involved in solving the lingering national health problems currently bedeviling the country.
This is even as the PSN boss tasked its members to embrace dynamism in exploring new opportunities in reaching out to community of people who are now daily fed poor information on the key areas of their health.
President of PSN, also urged members to revisit their mode of practice, given Nigeria’s huge demographic complexities.
He reiterated that such complexities in Nigeria’s demography, coupled with so much ageing and youthful population with diverse diseases has challenged pharmacists to revisit their mode of practice.
“Our health profile as a nation is far from being healthy. This calls on us pharmacists to be part of the solution. It is high time we responded with speed and positive gait.
“This will require us to be open to the dynamics of new communities that are rapidly shaped by unfettered new (social) media that now inform and instruct our social constructs and wellbeing. The key question for us to reflect on is ‘where thou pharmacy’ in all these? Yakasai said.
The PSN boss restated that the complexities of the country’s demography – substantial ageing alongside a youthful population within an estimated over 180 million people with complex disease profiles – are indications of the need for pharmacists to revisit their practice model and industry positioning.
Speaking further, the experienced pharmacist revealed that in view of the challenges, there is so much demand on the pharmacists from both the patients and the society at large, saying it is high time pharmacists would be fully involved in solving national questions, especially as they bother on health.
He averred that for PSN members to fully be involved in in this regard, they must remain true to their values and professionalism, challenging them to always put up behaviours that will stand them out.
“In the midst of all these, our immediate constituency – the patients and citizens who must always come first – are expecting us to remain noble and true to our professional cause.
“Our population wants us to reinforce quality over profit. Our society continues to nudge us to champion “drug security”. Our nation challenges us to continue to focus on improving health outcomes.
“As professionals, I opine that we can contribute to the current national questions and what will wade us through this dilemma-ridden times is to remain true to our values.
“Values are what will sustain and ensure our relevance at such a time as this. By values, I am not referring to the cheesy phrases that we sometimes paste on our offices wall that fill up the space and still look vacuous and empty.
He charged pharmacists on values that will enhance their professionalism, while explaining the values in the context of their jobs.
“Values, in this context, for us as pharmacists, must be behaviours that are devoid of abstracts, but pregnant with qualities of action that enable us to freely choose to do what is right. It is that which guide rather than constrain our everyday professional actions and choices.
“These values will be our refreshed and renewed sets of pointers, road maps and signposts that will assist our profession to make decisions that match the way we should practice going forward, one that says that we must be in touch with the things that matter to us, things that matter to our patients and indeed things that matter to our country Nigeria.”
Speaking further Yakasai observed that pharmacists must also embrace digitalisation and maximize same for their services which are essential in the medical value chain, urging the practitioners to carve a niche for themselves as other professionals did to their fields.
“We now co-exist and practice pharmacy in a society where digitisation is changing behaviours, business models, consumer expectations and everything – in real terms.
“This digital disruption is existentially powerful and it is having major impact across all professional sectors.
“Our choice therefore is either to embrace it and maximize it for pharmaceutical practice and business or we can remain scared by it.
The PSN boss urged them to emulate “what Napster did for music, what Uber did for Taxi services and what Amazon did to retailers.”
He pointed a way forward for the practice of pharmacy in already complex world, urging pharmacists to be tolerant, clear-headed and adopt an approach that will enhance their relationship with others.
“To be relevant in this new world, pharmacy practice need to be tolerant of ambiguity, remain clear-headed and relationship oriented, by being collaborative and innovative, as environmental complexities drive us to do the opposite.”
Yakasai urges for a new pharmacy philosophy, which, he said, would capture a new approach to dealing with myriad of challenges confronting the profession.
According to him, there should be a new philosophy to be called ‘pharmacentricism’, which he argued, will define what pharmacists stand for in the face global health challenges and the attendant complexities.
“To prepare us for this new and emerging world therefore, I will argue that we need a new approach and a new professional philosophy.
This I will describe as ‘Pharmacentricism.”
‘Pharmacentricism’ captures a new ideology of pharmaceutical practice and it is defined by a new approach to how we view and explicate what we stand for as pharmacists and what we project as professionals.
“Pharmacentricism will require that we have to start to navigate our social, economic and professional worlds in different and new ways, guided by our professional lens and knowledge, with citizens and patients as our core focus and at the center of all we do.”
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