LOCAL DRUG PRODUCTION STRATEGIC TO NATIONAL SECURITY – Mohammed, PCN Registrar
By Enyeribe Ejiogu
Prior to being appointed as the Registrar and Chief Executive of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, N.A.E. Mohammed, a pharmacist and product of the University of Benin, served the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria as National Secretary after having held other positions in the professional body. Then he worked in senior management capacities in pharmaceutical companies and ran a health magazine publishing firm. He is now bringing his varied experience to bear in the effort to re-position the pharmaceutical industry. In this interview he sheds light on the journey so far.
For starters give us a snapshot of what the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) is all about. Except pharmacists, the average Nigerian is not familiar with PCN.
Pharmacists Council of Nigeria is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria established by Cap. P17, LFN, 2004 and has been in existence since 1936. It metamorphosed from Pharmacy Board of Nigeria in 1936, through Pharmacy Board of Nigeria, 1964, and Pharmacists Council of Nigeria 1992.
It is charged with the responsibility among others, of regulating and controlling pharmacy education, training and practice in all aspects and ramifications in Nigeria. Its vision is to create an enabling regulated environment for the provision of quality pharmaceutical services delivery for sustainable healthcare delivery. And a mission to effectively regulate and control the training and practice of pharmaceutical service providers through the instrumentality of capacity building.
You have been the Registrar and chief executive of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria for about two years. When you took office, what were the major problems you met on ground and how did you tackle them?
The pharmacy practice I met was faced with moral and ethical issues that have assumed a crisis status. This is due to decades of neglect and uncoordinated regulation, disobedience to pharmacy laws and ethics, and passivity by some stakeholders that have produced various cultures of pharmacy practice with various appellations that lack self-actualization, devoid of true commitment to the ethics of the profession and control. The genuine concern for patient, mostly by the non-professionals, was relegated to the background. Everybody wants to handle (distribute, buy and sell) drugs because of the money they will make and not concerned about the main mantra of pharmacy: to lessen the burden of the sick. Even in some tertiary facilities where you would expect excellence in practice, the story is not different.
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 amongst healthcare workers and practitioners; lack of common vision and a unified sense of purpose, and lack of recognition of their mutual interdependence; lack of coordinated regulation and control. All these had turned the pharmacy practice in the country 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 to the detriment of the citizenry. But this has to stop! Thanks to the current change mantra of the Federal Government.
The consequence of these is that the practice stands at a crossroad: either we turn back to the “god of pharmacy” for redemption or face greater deterioration and despondency. Critical times as these call for a radical response from the people of conscience. Traditional means, methods and modes of thoughts and actions are insufficient to meet the needs of the present hour of change in the Nigerian pharmaceutical landscape! 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. I was inspired to put forward a four-point agenda when I sat down by the “Rivers of Babylon” meditating on the general state of affairs of pharmacy profession in Nigeria. This was several months before becoming the PCN Registrar. I knew one day by His grace, I would be the registrar of the council. I was prepared and it was not accidental.
The four-point agenda for the PCN Registry is derived from my vision and mission to uplift the pharmacy profession and practice in Nigeria. Before I applied for the job of the PCN Registrar, I developed a four-point agenda as my working tool to move the profession forward if appointed. I am happy that today, I am the Registrar by the grace of God 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 me in repositioning the practice for good of the citizenry. The cooperation mostly from stakeholders has been overwhelming. The four point agenda are:
A: Repositioning of the registry for effective service delivery – This is meant to help reposition the council and make PCN more visible and align it to the yearnings of Nigerians on quality pharmaceutical service delivery. This involves the creation of IT-driven pharmacy regulation with result-oriented inspectorate activities and e-practice in all its ramifications. To achieve this, council has put in place an IT registration and licensing platform that took off early this year. Currently the online registration for pharmacists and pharmaceutical premises has been achieved while pharmacy technician registration has also been integrated to the online platform, similarly the e-registration for the PPMVS is being developed. Also, the review and harmonization of the pharmacy laws that will not only address the current lapses but be in tandem with current realities and best global practices for the good of the citizenry is being pursued. As regards my staff, various trainings have been done and still being done for them in order to inculcate a new mind set for the new business culture of transformation in them. This has helped the council achieve the new policy thrust of the present change mantra of the Federal Government by advancing new ideas and processes. The staff have been wonderful in achieving this. How? With their support, I have been able to create a platform for the meshing of private sector market culture concept with the clan culture of the public service sector. The resultant effects include high focus on client’s needs, productivity, clients and staff satisfaction, competitiveness and result oriented activities that focus on collaboration and teamwork.
B: Institutionalization of Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) in Nigeria – The World Health Organization’s 8-star pharmacist concept is all encompassing. We want the Nigerian pharmacist and indeed all players in the pharmaceutical landscape 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 have further worked on the 4-part Compendium of Minimum Standards for the assurance of pharmaceutical care and produced the Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) document. 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.
C: 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. Pharmaceutical practitioners and indeed the professionals are life-long learners and this must reflect in their professional practice. They must continuously develop and improve themselves irrespective of where they practice. Council is redesigning, restructuring and strengthening the MCPD programs to stimulate interest in continuous self-development and critical thinking for professionalism and self-growth. In view of this, we have launched the Online MCPD since September, 2016 to align it with global best practice. The program has also been redesigned to deliver practice-area specific content to improve its relevance and promote patronage. We believe this will bring about individual empowerment for self-transformation and aspiration to inspire others. We have also reviewed the curricula in the faculties of pharmacy and schools/colleges of health technology to produce pharmacists and pharmacy technicians that will meet the contemporary healthcare challenges and needs of the patient.
D: New Partnership for Progress Initiative (NP4PI) – In this area, we are partnering with stakeholders that would speed up our processes and practices. Such stakeholders include MDAs, Customs, CBN, International organizations such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), etc. This also necessitated the engagement of various stakeholders such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and its various Technical arms and interest groups, National Association of Patent and Proprietary Medicine Dealers (NAPPMED), Lagos Medicine Dealers Association (LSMDA) as well as the operators of the open drug markets to promote harmony and facilitate regulation. We are also looking inward for cross fertilization 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 and address our common enemies – diseases and sales and distribution of fake drugs in the society.
The former President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sir Anthony Akhimien, in an interview with The Sun a few years back suggested that Nigeria should have developed a properly structured pharmaceutical manufacturing industry by now. He also suggested that a dedicated drug manufacturing zone provided with a dedicated gas turbine power generator and patterned after the export processing zone model is what Nigeria needs. Do you share this view and if so, how do you think the PCN can begin to draw attention to this under your tenure?
I share his views and that is the dream of all pharmacists in Nigeria – for our country to be self-reliant in drug production and supply, not only for economic and health reasons but for security reasons. PCN will by way of memos and presentations to appropriate authorities draw the attention of government and investors to this ‘goldmine’ of local production of drugs in Nigeria. It is gratifying to note that some manufacturing industries in Nigeria have received WHO prequalification.
When President Muhammadu Buhari was the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (Special), he took particular interest in and supported indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing companies to produce basic drugs for public hospitals. It was during this time that Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries and other firms got a real boost. If you were to be invited to brief President Buhari on the situation in the pharmaceutical industry and the roadmap to the future, considering the role of the industry as a strategic sector vital to national security, what would you tell him?
My first major suggestion is that the drugs being used in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) should be produced locally and labeled as such. By so doing a component of the drug money will be used to boost local production. Secondly a special ‘rescue’ fund should be made available for local production to revive and strengthen them. This will create more employment for our youths.
The federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria has created special intervention funds for the agricultural and power sectors. It has even created the Nigeria Infrastructure Bank. It has been suggested that the pharmaceutical industry needs a Marshall Plan. Does the pharmaceutical industry really need a Marshall Plan?
The pharmaceutical industry needs it as urgently as possible. I had earlier mentioned it in this interview. I want to particularly add that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recently unveiled by the Federal Government would be very helpful in achieving the desire of stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry for creation of a special intervention fund that would revolutionise drug manufacturing in Nigeria. We must seize the moment.