‘Health credits belonging to pharmacists are given to others’
Otote Bridget Aladi is the chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Abuja branch. In this interview she granted at the sidelines of this year’s World Pharmacy Day activity organized by the group recently in Abuja, she spoke on the challenges facing pharmacists in the country, and advised Nigerians on the use of medicines. was a joint enforcement between the FCT PIC and the Nasarawa PIC being coordinated by the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria and over two hundred shops including pharmacies and patent medicine shops were closed down.
We go out on inspections every month and enforcement is done as at when necessary. Even when we are on routine monthly inspection, we try to look around sniff around, and observe everything going wrong in any premises per say. So we still stop to do enforcement .
How are you dealing with quackery among pharmacists in the FCT?
Once you are addressed as a pharmacist, you are not a quack. The quacks are the non pharmacists. It is when you pretend to be a pharmacist when you are not, that is when you are a quack.
I wouldn’t also say the patent medicine vendors are quacks because that will be wrong. Because there are registered one s who have gone through some form of training , not in the classroom per say, and are licensed by the PCN also. It is just that they go beyond what they are meant to do.
Because they are suppose d to administer only over the counter drugs. But they go far beyond what they are suppose d to do, that is where we have problem with the registered patent medicine vendors, and that is where you have most of the quacks.
I am sure more than 80% of them are not registered. They just get a shop, open it , put drugs and start selling. Some of them have never seen the four walls of a classroom. They do all sort of things, give injections and even deliveries.
Although it is not sacrosanct. Recently the license of a registered pharmacist was found in a non -registered premises. A boy that had worked with the pharmacist probably stole the license and is pretending to be a pharmacist. But the pharmacist has since written to us to dissociate himself from that premises. So it is the non pharmacist who is trying to pretend to be a pharmacist, and the case is still under investigation.
What advice do you have for Nigerians on the use of medicine?
We should be very smart. Gone are the days when you just take anything. People are very enlightened now with the advent of the internet among
Do you think Nigerians have adequate access to essential drugs and commodities?
To some extent yes but there is still a lot to be done. All hands are being on deck to ensure availability of essential drugs. I can say confidently that we are not where we were five years ago. But there is still room for improvement.
What are the challenges facing pharmacists in the country?
A lot, .most of the time we are not even recognized, Nigerians don’t know who a pharmacist is. I am a community pharmacist and personally I have had to correct some of my patients. When they come in and see you in your white robe, they address you as doctor, and I always say ‘I am not a doctor.’ I always make sure they are corrected and I think every pharmacist should do so.
So a major challenge is recognition. The credits of our good works are given to others because we are not known, so every patient thinks he gets well by the efforts of the doctor.
In the civil service, not until recently we do not get to directorship cadre. We were made to stop as deputy directors, and it took years of long battle before we were able to get that recognition.
We have only very few directors of pharmaceutical services particularly in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). I don’t know what happens in the states. But I know the fight started here and by the grace of God we are attaining that level.
We are battling with recognition not just from professional colleagues under medical workforce but even the half literate or illiterates, as we are being fought by the patent medicine vendors who want to claim rights as pharmacists. We are being fought by the pharmacy technicians who I know in Cross River state are allowed to open pharmaceutical premises.
So apart from recognition we have a lot of battles that we are fighting to be able to get our proper place in the society.
Medical doctors are always going on strike for the implementation of various agreements , are you carried along on discriminated in these agreements ?
No, we are not carried along that is why we joined the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU). As disciplined pharmacists most of the time we are very tolerant, it is only in recent times that you start hearing pharmacists going on strike along with other medical professions apart from doctors in the hospitals.
Like the saying goes, there is a limit to which any human being can take anything. Like my people would say, the heart has no brain especially when you are consistently being discriminated upon, and you are practising and operating within the same society and economy, you go on rounds, calls and do practically everything the doctor does.
Even in school, we do almost the same courses .There are things doctors don’t know about , just like there are things we don’t know about. I want it on record that most pharmacists are pharmacists by choice not because they cannot read medicine.
Most of us are ‘A’ students. A lot of doctors you see around were our classmates and students we beat hands down in class. Even some of us got admission for medicine but turned it down because of our passion for pharmacy. But where the doctors begin to make it look as if they are special beings or because they are more intelligent than the pharmacists, or see pharmacists as second class citizens, it is most unfair. That is why we are trying to rise up to the challenges and also make our voices heard by the people we serve and by the government.
What are you doing to address the issues of illegal pharmacies in Abuja?
We have been doing a lot. We have a committee called the Pharmaceutical Inspectorate Committee (PIC). It is a committee that has a delegated power because regulation of pharmacy is supposed to be done by the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN).
But because they cannot be everywhere at every point in time they delegate this function to the federal ministry of health. In the FCT, it is being done by the Federal Capital Territory Development Authority(FCDA), that is the pharmaceutical services department.
And because of the challenges in the past, we started this inspectorate committee ship from the FCT. We sponsored the idea and it was bought by other states whereby there is partnership between the private sector and the government.
How many illegal shops have been closed and how many quacks apprehended in the FCT?
Sometimes last year there others.
I don’t want Nigerians to take their health for granted . You have a right to information and to ask your pharmacist or doctor what he or she is giving you and why and how you are being treated . Nigerians should ask questions it is their right. They have a right to know and also the right of choice, or to reject it if they don’t want it.
I also advise pharmacists not to abuse the position of trust between them and the people.
Your achievements in the FCT?
I have been trying to stabilize the society, because I came in at a time we had a lot of challenges. I have also continued with the projects started by my predecessor.
We are developing the permanent site of our secretariat at Life camp, Abuja . We are working on publicity and improving the welfare of members. We are also the mouth piece of our colleagues where they are sidelined , like the maltreatment of pharmacists at the Federal Staff Hospital, we came in as a society to intervene. Sometimes the employee cannot speak, but as a society we go there to see how we can mediate between the employers and employees who are our members.
What are recommendations improving the welfare pharmacist in the country?
Well now we have pharmacists as directors and director-generals like Mrs Awoshika who retired as a DG. We will appreciate it if the government can begin to recognize pharmacists as consultants because most of us are qualified. Most of us have gone through the West African Post graduate college of pharmacists but are yet to answer that title ‘consultants’ but I know we have gone a long way towards achieving that fight , so it will be very well appreciated.
Your organization is planning a nationwide conference?
Yes ,it is the 88th annual national conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, and will hold from 9th to 14th of November this year. The theme is ““Advancing pharmacy through strategic workforce development in a practice setting.” Pharmacists in the 36 states and the FCT will converge in Abuja for the national conference. you on of