Ahead of its 96th yearly national conference scheduled for Gombe, Gombe State, from October 30 to November 4, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has called on the Federal Government to urgently reconstitute the Governing Board of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and reintroduce funding for the council to prevent anarchy in the regulation of the pharmaceutical sector.
The PSN, at a press conference, on Wednesday, listed the many challenges faced by local manufacturers towards medicine security and Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and proffered solutions to the menace.
The theme of the conference tagged JEWEL CITY 2023 is ‘Pharmacy Practice: A Pivot to Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria’.
President, PSN, Prof. Cyril Odianose Usifoh, said there is urgent need to reconstitute the Governing Board of PCN because the non-appointment of the Chairman of the PCN, who is statutorily the Chairman of the disciplinary tribunal of the council effectively cripples efforts to invoke sanctions on erring pharmacists, other members of the pharmacy workforce and pharmaceutical companies.
Usifoh said the need to have persons of good moral standing and unquestionable and impeccable track record of service, appointed as Chairman and members of the PCN Governing Board cannot be overemphasised.
He said the functions of the Council require people who are overboard, not morally bankrupt and incontrovertible pharmacists.
Usifoh said the PCN mandate revolves around three major areas, which are education/training, pharmacy practice and disciplinary matters.
He, however, said these mandates are not realizable in the event that the governing council is not constituted because the accreditation of all training facilities from universities, school of technology that trains pharmacy technicians and other support personnel to hospital facilities and so on need the final approval of the PCN procedurally.
He said pharmacy practice, which stems directly from drug matters, is key to day-to-day endeavours of consumers of health. Usifoh said the status quo of drug and substance abuse, menace of operating unregistered pharmaceutical premises, fake and counterfeit drug consumption with attendant morbidity as well as mortality are recurrent matters arising that cannot be ignored.
The pharmacist said poor funding and the status quo of Federal Government involvement have compelled the country to live with over 200 million unregistered pharmaceutical premises, over 35 open drug markets, dispensing physicians in private hospitals, a thriving drug abuse and misuse of culture, which is seriously consuming Nigerians, especially youths and women.
The professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Benin, Edo State, said non-funding of regulatory councils of professional bodies amounts to a comprehensive abdication of responsibility by an otherwise responsible government to contemplate this with PCN, which is both a peculiar and unique professional regulatory council.
Usifoh said from the purview of existing laws, the Federal Government is compelled in Section 9 (1) of the PCN Act 2022 to provide budgetary and extra budgetary allocation to PCN.
“It will, therefore, be unlawful and illegal for the Budget Office to stop allocations to the PCN in public interest. I do hope the Chief Law Officer of the country guides the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration on this critical issue,” Usifoh said.
Usifoh said, over the past six years, Nigeria has lost about 6,000 pharmacists to brain drain and this has left an enormous burden on the system as they are not being replaced fast enough and Nigerians are increasingly denied access to life and money saving pharmaceutical care which the pharmacist is best suited to provide. “We acknowledge that a few steps like the new salary structure and consultancy cadre, together with the PCN Act are welcome but much more is needed to significantly reverse the trend,” he said.
Usifoh said local drug manufacturing is the solution to the Japa Syndrome, medicines’ insecurity and Universal Health Coverage.
According to him, a robust local manufacturing sector improves the whole value chain from education, higher education, research and production, ensuring that the country is self-sufficient in professionals of different fields- microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacognosy, research, production, quality control, marketing and others. He said many of these professionals have left the shores of the country in search of employment, as there are no systems to absorb them locally.
Usifoh said problems of local manufacturing include: poor access to funds- inhibitive interest rates, cannot expand to meet demand; lack of trust in local products; poor patronage by government- many prefer foreign either due to lack of trust or incentives by multinationals; regulation- sometimes, regulatory agencies are not interested in guiding manufacturers to achieve better standards, choosing instead to be punitive than corrective; lack of basic amenities- power, water, roads; lack of equipment; lack of professionals, key technical staff due to Japa Syndrome; and inability to compete with countries with cheaper factors of production.
“A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. A nation that produces what it uses is a nation that is self-sufficient, secure and protected from adverse effects of dependency on foreign products. It is highly imperative that we look inwards and support local manufacturing to improve our healthcare delivery and by doing so, impact positively on our economic indices as a nation,” Usifoh said.
SOURCE: The Guardian