Pharmatimes interview

We congratulate you on your re-appointment for a second term in office. How far did you go in achieving your first term agenda

Thank you for congratulating me and also for giving me this opportunity to give account of stewardship during my first term in office as of Registrar, Pharmacists Council.

Recognising that it is critical to understand the end goal and objectives before starting out, I conceived the idea of having a vision and mission as guiding principles on assumption of office on June 12, 2014.  My vision was to put in place Pharmacy practice that is generational in thoughts, actions and deeds as well as promote the tenets of the profession to meet the needs of the patients while, the mission was to create societal change agents cut of career professionals through self-transformation as intellectual practitioner with moral courage.

To achieve these objectives, a four-point agenda was designed and followed through.  The 4-point Agenda comprised the following:

  • Repositioning of the Registry for efficient and effective service delivery;
  • Institutionalisation of Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) in Nigeria;
  • Transformation of career professionals into intellectual practitioners; and
  • New partnership for progress initiatives.

The impacts of these efforts are enormous and evident across broad regulatory functions of PCN.  These include repositioning of the Registry for better performance through various capacity building programmes for staff; ICT transformation of the regulatory activities of the PCN that is consistent with global best practices which includes the deployment of online registration for pharmacists, pharmaceutical premises, pharmacy technicians and patent and proprietary medicines vendors – these initiatives promote stakeholders satisfaction and facilitated processing of applications. Further impacts are initiation of practice-area specific Mandatory Continuous Professional Development (MCPD) programme delivered through e-learning thereby making it more convenient and easily accessible along with improved content as well as GIS mapping of pharmaceutical facilities and institutions to facilitate decision making in inspectorate activities. The website was also redesigned to make it more functional, effective and efficient.

Other efforts include the implementation of new partnership for progress initiative which involves regular stakeholders’ engagement to promote understanding and positive outcome through effective relationship management.

Similarly, within this period concerted effort was deployed towards the disposal of numerous court cases (about 42) which had been a clog in the wheel of progress of the Council and the vacation of various court injunctions hindering regulatory activities. Furthermore, the reform of PCN enabling Act, Cap P17, LFN, 2004 which has become archaic, inadequate and incapable of reflecting the realities in relation to the regulatory functions was vigorously undertaken and almost now at the stage for it to become a new law after assent by President Mohammadu Buhari.

PCN also got the approval of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation in 2017 to establish an Enforcement Department.  Consequently, enforcement activities have been fully reactivated to ensure compliance to regulation by all stakeholders.  The number of stakeholders registered and licensed by PCN in recent years has increased significantly while professional discipline has been strengthened.  Also, staff welfare has received a boost.

PCN made significant progress in changing the narratives of the agency especially in the area of sanitizing the pharmaceutical practice space in the country. What are you doing to ensure that grounds so far conquered are not lost soon after?

 As earlier stated, this achievement is directly hinged on the implementation of one of the pillars of the 4-pour agenda, which is, the repositioning of the Registry for efficient and effective service delivery.

May I restate that this has been made possible because of the approval of the HOCSF to establish an Enforcement Department, the goal is to institutionalise this regulatory activity rather than doing it through Committees which operates on ad hoc basis.  Thus, with this development I can guarantee that rather than lose grounds already conquered, we shall to continue to put in place appropriate strategies to ensure that we get to the nook and cranny  where illegal and unregistered premises exists to dismantle them.

There is a feeling among interested observers of pharmaceutical practice in the country that there exist a culture of pharmacy practice that lacks self- actualization, control and true commitment to the ethics of the profession. How do you respond to that?

Several factors can be attributed to this culture.  Principal among this is the chaotic drug distribution system which is characterised by the existence of open drug markets and perceived inadequate (weak) regulation of the sector, particularly, as reflected in the proliferation of Patent and Proprietary Medicines Vendors (PPMVs). Recall, there were also attempts to introduce chaos into pharmacy regulation through the back door, the type that never existed anywhere in the world by some self-seeking individuals who were determined to transform the National Association of Pharmaceutical Technologists and Pharmacy Technicians (NAPPTON) to a regulatory body. Another concern to stakeholders is the need to strengthen experiential teaching and learning as well as mentoring of younger colleagues.

However, despite this seeming challenges and concerns many of the issues have being pursued vigorously during my first term in office. The drive towards implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) would streamline Drug Distribution and ensure closure of all open drug markets. We are very optimistic that the full implementation of the NDDG would be achieved. Also, having vacated all court injunctions against PCN and won all other court cases (about 42) instituted against the Council by National Association of Patent and Proprietary Medicines Vendors (NAPPMED), it is evident that the coast has been cleared for effective regulation of the PPMVs through enforcement activities.

The Hub and Spoke model between Community Pharmacies (CPs) and PPMVs is another effort being put in place to improve service delivery as well as self-actualisation by CPs.  In addition this this, several other reforms are being undertaken within the education and training component of PCN to strengthen experiential teaching and learning; while mentoring plans is being developed.

PCN commenced inspection of public and private health facilities across the country in June this year to ensure good pharmaceutical practice in hospitals. From the experience so far gathered, what is your take on the exercise?

Some of the goals of hospital pharmacy inspection are to ensure that hospital pharmacists play the role of ensuring sustainable medicines availability through the instrumentality of Drug Revolving Fund (DRF), provision of pharmaceutical care, availability of adequate number of pharmacy personnel for effective delivery of pharmacy services, availability of appropriate structures and facilities, among others.

Revelations from the hospital pharmacy inspection clearly shows that most hospital pharmacies have not met minimum standards to support and facilitate provision of effective pharmaceutical care.

There is also non-implementation of DRF scheme, inadequate number of pharmacy staff and facilities, lack of facilities for compounding of medicines for special uses and several other shortcomings.

Be that as it may, I wish to state that there are some tertiary health institutions, State and private hospitals which managements are reasonably complying with the regulatory requirements of PCN in this regard.

To this end, PCN has forwarded the findings from the field to the various hospital authorities with recommendations on areas that need attention or improvement as the case may be.  We will follow up with monitoring activities to ensure compliance of various institutions managements.

The pharmacist-to-patient ratio in the country is widening and may get worse if brain-drain syndrome is not halted. What is the way out?

The Nigeria health work force Registry published by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), 2018 revealed that Pharmacists profile in the country is inadequate to even meet sub-Saharan standard which itself is a far cry from WHO requirement.  The Registry had it that currently, there are 10 pharmacists to 100,000 population.

However, to address this gap PCN is putting in place the concept of Satellite Pharmacy and Hub and Spoke Model to improve access to quality, safe and effective medicines from regulated pharmaceutical premises throughout the country.

The 31st December 2018 deadline for dismantling open drug market has come and gone without success. What is the true position of implementation of National Drug Distribution Guidelines?

The key target of the implementation of the NDDG is the closure and relocation of the open drug markets to the Coordinated Wholesale Centres. Let me assure the pharmacy community and Nigerians that PCN is closely monitoring developments in this regard and can authoritatively state that the journey towards achieving this is on course despite certain political/administrative challenges being experienced by the stakeholders.

Again, we are very optimistic that the full implementation of NDDG shall be achieved and all open drug markets closed in a short time.

The New Pharmacy Bill which is yet to be signed by President Mohammadu Buhari has generated a lot of reactions from stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector. What is PCN doing about the matter?

PCN is deploying the mechanism of effective advocacy to get assent to the new Pharmacy Council Bill in earnest by President Mohammadu Buhari.

How prepared is PCN for emergence of Internet pharmacy regulation in Nigeria?

PCN would through the instrument of Good Pharmacy Practice Module develop appropriate guidelines to effectively regulate this emerging concept – internet pharmacy.

What are the challenges faced by PCN that is limiting your dream for the agency and what have you done to overcome them?

Some of the major challenges are:

  • Inadequate manpower
  • Inadequate logistics such as vehicles for regulatory activities
  • Funding gaps
  • Inadequate infrastructure such as office space, equipment and monetary tools

To address these, PCN is continuously interfacing with relevant MDAs of the Federal Government to seek appropriate support. Appropriate internal mechanisms are also being devised to address certain challenges especially those of logistics, equipments and working tools.

What major agenda would you focus on in your second term in office?

It is imperative to state that my second term would and is already building on the success recorded in the first term.  The goal shall be targeted at the three (3) – Rs, that is effective Regulation of Premises, Regulation of Personnel and Regulation of Practice through enforcement activities.