By Ijeoma UKAZU
The Nigerian Lady Pharmacists, ALPs, have been charged to ensure zero-tolerance for malpractices that could introduce counterfeits into the pharmaceutical system as the country fights for an efficient pharmaceutical value chain.
They said that a functional health system requires an efficient value chain that can ensure a consistent flow of affordable and high-quality drugs for users.
The Managing Director of JNC International Ltd and Chairman, Vaccipharm Limited, Mrs Clare Omatseye, made the charge in Lagos at the 2022 Biennial National Conference of the Association of Lady Pharmacists, ALPs, being the 15th edition with the theme: “Pharmaceutical Value Chain for Optimal Utilisation: Where are we?”
Omatseye, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, stressed the need for an effective drug distribution policy to improve the nation’s health care system and called for a seamless pharmaceutical value chain from production to when it is administered to patients.
She condemned the hawking of pharmaceuticals in the market, stressing that this unpleasant development has led to the growth of charlatans and quacks in the industry.
Omatseye added that quackery is portraying pharmacists in a bad light, insisting that all hands must be on deck to address these vices.
She recalled that about 100,000 people die annually in Africa from fake drugs, hence, the need for ALPs to jointly advocate with the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, that all healthcare professionals come together and have a clear and common goal of meeting patients’ requirements for better and more accessible services, in turn optimising the pharmaceutical value chain.
On adopting a supply chain strategy, she said players in the chain need to be more customer-centric by putting the needs of patients first.
In ‘Addressing the Challenges within the Value Chain for Optimisation,’ Omatseye further said, “We need to have systems, structures, processes, policies, and standards in place to guide the operations within the value chain. The security of the integrity of the pharmaceutical value chain is critical and the following could be a way to achieve optimisation. Turn our challenges to opportunities,” Omatseye added.
However, she said, “It’s important that we congratulate our Regulators, both PCN and NAFDAC for their recent global certifications. And all the best in attaining even greater heights,” she added, commending regulators for their technology adaptation, noting, “But, we still request that they do not rest on their oars as there is still so much to be done.”
The keynote speaker further said that her research identified several challenges, saying, “Top of that list is the apparent huge cry amongst pharmacists that practitioners are seemingly over-regulated while the charlatans are allowed to run riot without any significant action taken against them.
“Hence Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendors, PPMVs, and the open drug markets are hardly targeted for raids yet community pharmacists are usually the target of enforcement raids and hard fines slammed on them when the real culprits are left untouched. Regulators are requested to cover everyone. Bureaucracy still exists in the regulatory organisations that also need to streamline in the light of the current realities of the business place.
“Businesses usually need to take brisk and quick decisions because time is money however sometimes it takes forever sometimes for regulators to provide approvals for locations, licenses, product-related issues, etc.”
Omatseye identified challenges in the industry as brain drain, deplorable health infrastructure, low life expectancy, chaotic drug distribution, highly fragmented and inadequately coordinated distribution, and supply chain, and lack of drug security among others.
She said drug security is a major challenge adding that to bridge this gap, “we have to be self-sustaining. Seventy per cent of our drugs are imported and that is not sustainable. Nigeria cannot continue to be a dumping ground for drugs. Local industries must be incentivized.”
The seasoned pharmacist noted that the importance of pharmacists to the improvement of Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and the growth of any country could not be over-emphasised, even as she added that there is a need for concerted effort and collaboration to change the nation’s pharmaceutical industry’s narrative.
“We must not let the recent pandemic magnifying lens go to waste. It presented us with a unique opportunity to accelerate and grow the pharma sector and become a major contributor to Nigeria’s GDP over the next decade coupled with the export opportunity of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA. We need to attract the investment capital.”
She added that giving loans to pharmacists at double-digit interest rates is not sustainable. The pharmacist suggested the need to self-regulate to provide job security, noting that the university curriculum on Pharmacy should be reviewed.
“Women are great advocates and we must advocate to government on the critical need to create an enabling environment to further incentivize investors to place their funds in the pharma value chain, and stop being overly dependent on foreign aid, or an FDI takes over.” She further stressed that partnership with regulators was critical to ensure pharmacists transit from a manual, unfriendly bureaucracy to online approvals.
Noting that pharmacists play substantial roles in several aspects of the supply and value chain, yet not without challenges in aspects such as forecasting, procurement, inventory control, distribution, and logistics, she lamented that there is a continued shortage of pharmacists’ manpower with several positions naturally occupied by pharmacists being left opened for non-pharmacists to occupy.
“The government needs to provide adequate funds to support research, staff development, exchange programs, capacity building, specialised residency training, and well-articulated continuing professional development. The infrastructures are dilapidated, and materials used to train pharmacists in universities and teaching hospitals obsolete; these should be updated.”
She also urged ALPS, PSN, and PWDAN to continue to push for enforcement of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines for world-class Pharma Distribution and end the open drug market.
Earlier in her address, the National Chairman of ALPS, Pharm. Victoria Ukwu, said in ensuring access to safe effective and quality assured medicines a comprehensive approach is required across the pharmaceutical value chain, stating that the value chain contains some critical steps from the initial development stage of medicines to the final appropriate use by patients therefore every arm of pharmacy is expected to play a role and add value to the chain.
Ukwu disclosed that the objectives of ALPs National Drug Policy are, to improve access to essential drugs by making them available and affordable to ensure the safety, efficacy, and quality of drugs available in the country and promote the national use of drugs in the country.
Ukwu said the vision of ALPs is to improve the health and general well-being of members of the society, while the mission is to promote health education, maternal and child health, research, and development of medicinal plants (Project 91), the campaign against drugs and substance abuse and mentoring.
She said the conference also provided an opportunity to launch the ALPs Education Fund to train and raise the girl-child.
Speaking, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Prof Christianah Adeyeye, said NAFDAC has been turned around to be among the few agencies that have stood out in the world in terms of regulation.
“We are the first regulatory agency in Africa to use the feasibility system to ensure our drug distribution system is more feasible. We are also leading the way in Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in manufacturing, so also Emzor Pharmaceutical and NAFDAC are working hand in hand with that process. We have attained Maturity level 3 and we are also going to get to maturity level 4 to be one of the best regulatory agencies in the world.”
Stressing the potential of Nigeria’s pharma industry to boost the country’s development fortune, Dr Dere Awosika, chairman of the occasion, said the economic, health, and societal value of the pharmacists must be taken into cognizance. She disclosed that no one could create good health indices outside pharmacists.
Citing the United States example, Awosika, who is also a pharmacist and chairman of Access Bank Plc, noted that in the U.S in 2001, the pharmaceutical value chain was estimated at $350billion. By 2021, she said it was estimated at $1.27trillion.
Awosika advised, “We must change the mindset of whom we are. We are service and development-oriented. All vacuums must be blocked through a consensus of positioning ourselves to put to practice what we have studied and pledged to do in our professional oath.”
Julius Adelusi Adeluyi, a former Minister of Health, advised the female pharmacists to be courageous and tenacious in their advocacy.