Pharm. (Mrs) Vivian Obiageli Ibeh, a Fellow of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP), with research interests in diabetes and internal medicine, is the zonal coordinator of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) Ikeja. In this interview with ADEBAYO OLADEJO, she highlights the peculiarities and challenges facing pharmacy practice in the zone. Ibeh, who is the executive director of Medshop Healthcare Limited, Opebi, Lagos, and current secretary of the Community Pharmacy Department of WAPCP, also outlines her goals and achievements as ACPN zonal coordinator.
Tell us about your pharmacy, its philosophy and growth projections
Medshop Pharmacy started operations in 2010, with the vision to change the dynamics of pharmacy practice, by adopting a holistic approach to pharmaceutical care as a driving impetus in our practice philosophy, while at the same time implementing a collaborative approach to healthcare delivery within our community.
This philosophical principle has endeared the practice to the community and in the process made Medshop Pharmacy a veritable stakeholder in the community. At the same time, it has created a platform for various healthcare practitioners in the community to continue to engage as a team.
For us, at Medshop Pharmacy, we intend to disrupt the industry with technology while at the same time remaining as a practice platform at the cutting edge of pharmaceutical care, by adopting new strategies of pharmacy informatics in providing solutions to our teeming patients within the community and around the city.
What is your relationship with the community and what is the most common health conditions that bring them to the pharmacy?
The prevalence of minor ailments in Lagos and Ikeja in particular will continue to be referenced as common health conditions defining the community pharmacy space. Our practice is not in isolation in Opebi. However, we have developed practice capacity and experience in managing these minor health conditions and proffer solutions to our customers and patience.
How lucrative is community pharmacy in Ikeja Zone?
Community Pharmacy Practice is a business where you have to get your pricing dynamics right. The era of blanket margins is over in the industry. Today, margins should be determined by feasible realities within the community of operations. The beauty of Ikeja Zone is the fact that it is stratified into affluent, middle class and base of the pyramid market segments.
A community pharmacy will have to properly define its market space to be profitable in the short, medium and long term. Yes, pharmacy practice is lucrative in Ikeja but every professional practitioner has to properly segment their market of operation and adopt appropriate pricing mechanisms to remain competitive and relevant for a sustained period of time.
At what point did you decide to be actively involved in ACPN and pharmacy activities generally and what prompted that decision?
During my internship programme at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, in Yaba, I did locum with about four community pharmacies in Ikeja and Ikoyi. In the process, I reckoned what needed to be done in the industry and how I could be relevant in the needed transformations in community pharmacy practice.
Subsequently, during my time at Pfizer and Eli Lilly, as I engaged with community pharmacies across Lagos State, placed side-by-side with my experience of what pharmacy practice is supposed to be in various engagements outside the country, I realised that there’s a need to actively sensitise, inspire and impact these pharmacies to achieve a quantum leap in their operations, margins and capacity within their sphere of operation.
This was my driving impetus to be part of ACPN and to undertake activities within and amongst my colleagues professionally and help in catalysing that quantum leap in the way and manner pharmacy practice is viewed in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole.
As zonal coordinator, ACPN, Ikeja Zone, and teacher with WAPCP, how would you describe your experience so far?
Before emerging as the ACPN coordinator for Ikeja, I had spent over 10 years within ACPN in the zone, first as assistant secretary, assistant coordinator and now the substantive coordinator. It has been a journey of focused collaboration, collegiate commitment, hard work and strategic patience.
The goal of ACPN Ikeja is to make the zone the most strategic, relevant and vibrant, in ACPN Lagos. Our programmes have been epoch-making and our interventions have raised the bar. The World Pharmacy Day programme in 2021 comes to mind easily, as Ikeja Zone placed pharmacy issues in the front burner in Nigeria for a couple of days in the traditional and online media.
The experience has been exciting and I greatly appreciate the unique set of individuals who make up the executives and all the active members of the zone for their impact and commitment to achieving everything we set out to achieve.
As a Fellow of WAPCP, and a lifelong researcher, my interest in the development of knowledge in Pharmacy and the promotion of correct ethical standards in the profession has not waned. My assignment in WAPCP is to raise the next generation of pharmacists, imbued with the capacity and competence to drive change in their respective communities and areas of practice and to be a shining light in the country.
I’m thankful to God Almighty for the grace to combine all these roles and be a catalyst in the industry in my own little way.
What would you say are the peculiar challenges facing community pharmacy practice in Ikeja Zone?
Every zone has its peculiar challenges and Ikeja Zone is not exempt from the challenges besetting pharmacy practice in Nigeria. However, in Ikeja, the challenge of space constraints, rental costs, location adaptation and the long-existing patent medicine vendors in the pharma market inevitably create a price war that ordinarily shouldn’t exist.
As an association, we are constantly rethinking our approach and processes to enable us to support our members to surmount challenges in our respective practices.
You had some goals set for yourself at the inception of your administration. How many of these goals have you been able to achieve and what are the rest?
As I said earlier, the goal of ACPN Ikeja was to make Ikeja Zone the most strategic, most relevant and most vibrant zone in ACPN Lagos State. I decided to make sure that our programmes create the needed impact in the community, the excitement amongst colleagues and drive changes in the community pharmacy space in Ikeja.
So far, we have impacted the community positively and The World Pharmacy Day programmes in 2021 and 2022 come easily to mind. Beyond the awards, we received during my administration, our reach towards colleagues and the creation of learning platforms are goals we intended from the beginning.
We aren’t relenting; and as a group, we are still focused on becoming the ACPN zone of choice not only in Lagos but in Nigeria. I am excited that I work with the best team and their commitment to achieving this goal is never in doubt.