‘Health cred­its be­long­ing to phar­ma­cists are given to oth­ers’

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - By Ojoma Akor

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

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