Forex Shortage Creating Drug Scarcity – Yakasai

Ahmed Yakasai, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), is a veteran practitioner of almost 35 years’ experience and a two-time past Commissioner in Kano State for eight years. Yakasai , former PSN Chairman, Kano State Branch as well as one-time First Deputy President at national level, in this interview, shares his perspectives in pharmacy and health management with CHIOMA UMEHA. Excerpts:
The scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) must be affecting the pharmaceutical sector like other sectors of the Nigerian economy. How is the PSN managing this situation in conjunction with the Federal Government?
After a careful evaluation of the impact of the current paucity of forex in the country which is gradually grinding operations in drug manufacturing and importation outlets to a halt in the days ahead, I appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently intervene to prevent an impending national calamity which will lead to morbidity and outright mortality of consumers of health in Nigeria.
We reason that empty warehouses of a plethora of the pharmaceutical companies due to inaccessibility to forex to directly source finished products, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and others percipients would naturally breed out of stock syndrome in the inventory of life saving drugs. This has obvious consequences in the days and weeks ahead, as most companies will exhaust the leftover stocks from last year.
Also, it is impossible to transact pharmaceutical inclined business at the rate of $1 to N400 as the drug products from such transactions will be completely unaffordable. Consequently, this will defeat the goal of the National Drug Policy that advocates the availability of safe, efficacious and affordable drugs in the health system at all times. We therefore call on the federal government to facilitate better access to forex to pharmaceutical companies as a matter of priority in view of the security dimensions of the out of stock syndrome. The current situation can boost the fake drug syndrome as charlatans will certainly exploit the vacuum created by a lack of basic drugs.
What are you doing to stem the tide of the renewed influx of fake drugs in Nigeria?
The sale of drugs in open markets is a despicable act, which the law forbids. Unfortunately, we did not manage a few things well in the past. In the immediate past dispensation, Pharmaceutical Stakeholders, including operators in open markets resolved to restructure the entire drug distribution chain to provide for Mega Drug Distribution Centres (MDDCs), State Drug Distribution Centres (SDDCs), regular wholesalers and coordinated wholesale centres (CWC). This will be a metamorphosis and complete transformation of market structures to neat enclaves which PCN and NAFDAC can regulate.
We are working on this and the major players in markets are making progress to meet the August 2017 deadline set by Government. In a nutshell open markets will be closed after this deadline and drug distribution endeavours will be professionalized in this clime.
Do you believe that Government will abide by July 2017 commencement date of the implementation of the amended National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG).
In this regard we are on course absolutely. The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) is collaborating with pharma stakeholders to achieve this.  The pharma stakeholders include, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Association of Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NIROPHARM) and Association of Pharmaceutical Importers of Nigeria (APIN). Others are, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) and representatives of non-pharmacist wholesalers who are expected to move to the proposed Coordinated Wholesale Centres (CWCs). We are in one accord to change the unhealthy status quo we have allowed in the country.
The Coordinated Wholesale Centres are already being constructed in some parts of the country. You will agree with me that this is very strategic to our overall success. It is my belief that when PCN and NAFDAC structure are fully established, we shall mobilize to consolidate our present level of commitment and gains. The PSN remains committed to decorous drug distribution channels and I assure the consuming public we shall not fail in this regards.
We have had appointments in most parastatals, including some in the health sector, what do you expect with notable appointments in the pharmaceutical sector?
You must continue to reckon and remember that it is the prerogative of the federal government to carry out these appointments whether at Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), NAFDAC or National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), which I believe you are referring to. I, however, presume that your question is based in public interest especially, the value of such appointments proper healthcare delivery.
Our first priority is to ensure lawful appointments on all pharmaceutical platforms, because we certainly do not pray for the type of disruption in equilibrium we experienced at Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) when representatives of PSN were compromised due to a distasteful manipulation by an interested party.
We had similar scenario at National Agency for Food, Drugs and Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which degenerated to a court action in another dispensation.
We shall continue to believe that an administration that abhors corruption like the incumbent government has practically demonstrated will be seriously mindful of appointing elements who have antecedents that are tainted with corruption or other negative vices in previous positions they held in public or private sector. It is instructive to put on record too that to appoint regulators especially in our sector, such must be premised or built around persons who are conversant with the terrain to be regulated. I therefore appeal to the federal government to give us lawful and befitting appointments in the pharmaceutical sector in the days and months ahead.
The 89th annual national conference of PSN holds in Minna from November 7 to 12, 2016. What do we expect?
This conference has as its theme “Pharmaceutical Industry Contributions to National Development.” The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is expected to declare it open as a special guest of honour, while the Governor of Niger State is chief host and the Minister for Health will be the guest of honour. Our nation needs to develop an efficient manpower base in the quest for self-sufficiency and economic growth. This unique conference will therefore exploit avenues for this much sought after maxims as it concerns the pharmaceutical sector of the economy.
It is a peculiar gathering of pharmacists and other scientists nationwide as well as the diaspora, so you can only expect a new positive force to emerge pharmaceutically speaking after November 12, 2016.
 Do you have any update in the quest to improve welfare of health workers in Nigeria?
We wish to appeal to the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government to give immediate attention to the clamours of health workers including pharmacists to redress some pressing welfare demands.


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