Pharmatimes interview

Tell us briefly about yourself, specifically your professional background?

My name is Pharm. Nurudeen Aimanekhi Elijah Mohammed from Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State.  I am currently the Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN).  I got my Bachelor in Pharmacy degree in 1984 from the prestigious Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Benin and in 1997, I had my MBA from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and M.Sc in Management from the University of Lagos, Lagos (2008). I am a Ph.D holder in Healthcare Management, Policy Development and Implementation, Walden University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

As a pharmacist, I have worked in various areas of pharmacy practice including Hospital, Administrative, Community, Industrial and Consultancy.

In my consultant capacity, I have been involved in various policy development projects in Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Health and some of its Agencies including international Agencies such as DFID as member of various Technical working groups.  Some of the policies so developed include healthcare financing policy, National Pharmacovigilance Policy, National Injection Safety policy and National Chemical safety policy.

I am a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and served as National Secretary of PSN (2005 – 2008), National Treasurer (2002 – 2005), National Financial Secretary (2000 – 2002) and Secretary of Board of Fellows from 2012 to 2014.   I also served as the Honorary Secretary of African Pharmaceutical Forum (An affiliate of FIP and the forum for all Pharmacists in Africa).  I was a member, Governing Council of Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) (2005 – 2008) and played an active role in its reform committee activities. Member, Presidential Committee on the Pharmaceutical Sector Reform and Coordinator, North Central Zonal Workshop on Health components of NEEDS in the President Olusegun Obasanjo Administration.

I served as General Manager, Swiss Biostadt Limited before my appointment as Registrar/Secretary to the Governing Council, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) in June, 2014.

You came into your new assignment as PCN Registrar after spending several years in the private sector.  How will your private sector experience impact on your new public sector assignment at the PCN?

My private sector experience is an added advantage to my present assignment.  This is so because the PCN as a professional regulatory body with most of the professionals in the private and public sector need an administrator with experience in the private sector to be able to strike a balance in its operations.   I was fortunate to have worked closely with the Public Sector as a Consultant in policy making and implementation as well as serving as member of the PCN Governing Council during which I served in the different Committees of the Council.  This gave me more opportunities to have a level of understanding of the workings of public service.

As a certified Professional Manager and a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered), I intend to bring to bear on PCN activities my private sector experience. And mesh its market culture concept of high focus on client’s needs, productivity, clients’ satisfaction, competiveness and result oriented activities with the clan culture of the public service sector that focuses on collaboration and teamwork.  In doing this, we shall be focusing more on effective and efficient service delivery and clients’ satisfaction.  The era of we are here and you are there will no longer be the case rather, we shall be working as partners with the overall goal of delivering quality pharmaceutical services to Nigerians.

You recently announced a four-point agenda for the PCN Registry, tell us about this agenda.  What prompted the agenda?

I was inspired to put forward this agenda when I sat down by the “River of Babylon” meditating on the general state of affairs of pharmacy profession in Nigeria. This was several months before becoming the PCN Registrar.

The practice we all know is faced with moral and ethical issues that have assumed a crisis status. Decades of neglect and uncoordinated regulation, disobedience to pharmacy laws and ethics, and passivity by stakeholders that have produced various cultures of pharmacy practice with various appellations (handshaking marketing, register & go, heredity marketing, ‘Almajere’ professionals of various dimensions etc.) that lack self actualization, devoid of true commitment to the ethics of the profession and control.

The reasons for these are obvious to all. Legalization of illegality on demand and removal of the essence of pharmacy practice from the public domain; lack of culture of respect and little genuine appreciation, understanding and co-operation between the older, middle and younger generation of Pharmacists; lack of common vision, a unified sense of purpose, and recognition of their mutual interdependence; lack of coordinated regulation and control has turned the practice into ‘pharmaceutical nollywood’ with all shades of actors acting various scripts to suit an assortment of owners, producers and directors alike! What an interesting film show.

The four-point agenda for the PCN Registry is derived from my vision and mission for the upliftment of the pharmacy profession and practice in Nigeria.  Before I applied for the job of the PCN Registrar, I developed the four-point agenda as my working tool to move the profession forward if appointed.  I am happy that today, I am the Registrar and the four-point agenda has come to stay as our working tool in the Registry. And I count on all stakeholders to join hands with us in reposition for good pharmacy profession and practice in Nigeria.

The four point agenda are:

  1. Repositioning of the Registry for Effective Service Delivery – By this, we are saying the PCN should be more visible and align to the yearning of Nigerians on quality pharmaceutical service delivery. We are focusing on creating IT driven pharmacy regulation with result oriented inspectorate activities and e-practice in all its ramifications.  To achieve this, we need to in addition to other activities, review and possibly harmonise the pharmacy laws that will not only address the current lapses but be in tandem with current realities and best global practices.
  2. Institutionalization of Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) in Nigeria – The World Health Organization’s 7-star pharmacist concept is all encompassing. We want Nigerian pharmacist to imbibe this concept especially now that we are all yearning for pharmaceutical care.  This would engender improved visibility and image for pharmacy practice in the eyes of the public. We expect that the GPP will bring about great improvement in the quality of work at our various workplaces thereby promoting patient’s health and quality of life.
  3. Transformation of Career professionals into Intellectual Practitioners In this aspect, we are saying that the era of graduating with B. Pharm and retiring with B. Pharm is over. Pharmacists are life-long learners and this must reflect in our professional practice. We must continuously develop and improve ourselves irrespective of where we practice as a pharmacist.  We are redesigning, restructuring and strengthening the MCPD programmes to stimulate interest in continuous self-development and critical thinking for professional and self-growth. We believe this will bring about individual empowerment for self-transformation and inspiration to inspire others. We are also reviewing our curriculum in the faculties of pharmacy to produce pharmacists that will meet the contemporary healthcare challenges and needs of the patient.
  4. New Partnership for Progress Initiative (NP4PI) – In this area, we are looking at partnering with stakeholders that would speed up our processes and practices. Such stakeholders include MDAs, Customs, CBN, International Organisations, etc.  We are also looking inward for cross fertilisation of ideas between the regulated stakeholders and the regulators.  This way, we can be sure of common focus on issues and ideas with the aim of drastically reducing friction and legal tussles.

The Governing Council of the PCN was in abeyance for a number of years.  What were the effects of the absence of this important Council and what are the lessons to be learnt from that unfortunate impasse?

The Governing Council of a regulatory body like PCN is key to its effective operations.   The Governing Council fashions out the policies that drive the day-to-day activities.  So, absence of the Governing Council would naturally impact negatively on the activities of an agency like PCN. These, we have witnessed in the past and we do not pray to have such vacuum again.  The major effect of the absence of the PCN Governing Council in the past is that the Registry is left to carry out routine activities.  This in effect means that when there is critical and challenging issues, it becomes difficult to urgently apply necessary measures.  A case in point here is the review of the PCN Act as this has been on the drawing board of PCN for over 10 years without much progress.  The key lesson to be learnt from this absence of Governing Council is that it retards progress in the regulatory activities.  It is advisable that Government consider the statutory Boards/Councils whenever it intends to dissolve Boards/Councils.

There is still a great imbalance in the Pharmacists-Patient ratio in Nigeria, what is the PCN doing to tackle this challenge?  How can the PCN help boost the quality of pharmacy education and number of practising pharmacists in Nigeria?

The imbalance in the pharmacist-patient ratio in Nigeria is disturbing.  While the WHO recommended ratio is 1:5000 pharmacists to patient ratio, as at today in Nigeria, the ratio of practising pharmacist to patient is 1:15,000 (based on estimated population of 150m).  The associated problem of brain drain is not helping matters in addressing this problem.  The PCN has done quite well in trying to bridge the gap considering the number of accredited pharmacy schools in Nigeria.  As at today, we have seventeen (17) accredited pharmacy school and about four other ones are at various stages of accreditation.  The PCN is doing quite well in accrediting eligible school for training of pharmacist and this is one of the ways of addressing this challenge.  The PCN is also carrying out advocacy visits/appeal to State Government to sponsor their indigent students to study pharmacy in Nigeria and abroad.

In terms of the quality of pharmacy education, the PCN is working on reviewing the pharmacy curriculum and enhancing the pharmaceutical care content.  We are not only working on the quality of education but on the quality of pharmaceutical service delivery by creating enabling environment for the practitioners.

What are your Thoughts on the Theme of the 87th PSN Conference: “Transforming Pharmacy Practice for Better Outcomes”

The 87th PSN Annual National Conference with the theme “Transforming Pharmacy Practice for Better Outcomes” is in line with my four-point agenda and the overall focus of the current Governing Council of PSN under the chairmanship of Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo.  And indeed the spirit of transformation of the Federal Government of Nigeria. We need transformation of pharmacy practice prompted by the ‘zeal to lessen the burden of the sick’ and there cannot be a better time to start it than now.

Critical times call for a radical response from the people of conscience. Traditional means, methods and modes of thoughts are insufficient to meet the needs of the present hour! A more drastic approach is required.

In every generation, people of conscience usually come forth from within the people to bring about a change for good. They are ‘separated’ men and women who are satisfied with nothing less than: undivided devotion to the good of humanity, uncompromising obedience to the will of doing what is right, and unflinching engagement with a culture that is hostile to all things of good conscience.

Revolution rarely begins suddenly. Instead it grows up over time as people become less and less satisfied with conditions as they are. One incidence leads to another and tensions mount until finally one catalytic event becomes the flash point that propels them into action! As a ‘professional nation’ must we wait for this to happen before we know that things must change for good? The pharmacy profession and indeed many practitioners have watched – mostly in silence- as the voice of reasoning and the laws of the practice have been progressively ‘legislated’ out of the public arena as the gladiators ‘worship’ at the alters of greed, materialism and selfishness to perpetuate the malevolence deeds.

A revolution not of violence and destruction but of love, professional sanctification and radical devotion to what is good can bring us out of the woods. This is only achievable through a process of self and systemic transformation and actualization.