Pharm. (Chief) Olaitan Sunday Ogunlade is the zonal coordinator, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), King Zone, Lagos – comprising Iju-Ishaga, Agege, Ogba and the environs. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Ogunlade, who is the managing director of Damilola-Olu Pharmaceutical Company Limited in Ifako/Ijaiye, Lagos, takes a critical look at pharmacy practice in Nigeria, with particular emphasis on the community segment. The graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, and father of two undergraduate pharmacy students, also offers suggestions on tackling the challenges besetting pharmacy practice in the country. EXCERPTS:
How has it been combining your duties as a community pharmacist with your responsibilities as the zonal coordinator?
As the wise saying goes, “Where there is will, there is a way.” To say the least, I am combining three duties, a community pharmacist, a zonal coordinator and a high chief, because as a high chief, I have to attend Alara-in-Council’s meeting, at least, once in a month – apart from other duties and exigencies of office.
To be a successful community practitioner, one has to be a man of vision and courage, bearing in mind the challenges of practising in Nigeria – challenges, such as self-provision of power supply for at least 14 hours a day, pilfering, high staff turnover and many more. So, if one’s business is well structured, the load will not be too burdensome. We have superintendent pharmacists, intern pharmacists, administrative managers and supportive staff members – to mention a few – who make the wheel of the business to run smoothly.
It should be tough coordinating a fairly large zone like the King Zone of ACPN, Lagos State. Tell us about your successes and challenges.
Our zone comprises community pharmacists in Ogba, Iju, Agege, Obawole, part of Oko- Oba, Oke Ira and the environs. This can be reasonably said to be a very large zone. These areas were sub-divided into sub-zones and colleagues were appointed to oversee and mobilise members.
During my administration, King Zone has successfully hosted a “World Pharmacists Day” and a stakeholders meeting (which had in attendance, stakeholders in the profession, including Pharm. Samuel Adekola Samuel, national chairman, ACPN; Pharm. (Mrs) Bolanle Adeniran, immediate past chairman, PSN, Lagos State, among many others).
The zone has also carried out many enlightenment campaigns, such as drug abuse campaign, Hepatitis B screening and vaccination – in conjunction with the Rotary Club; as well as many other medical outreaches.
Some people, especially the charlatans, see community pharmacy as mere buying and selling. As a trained pharmacist, what can you say about this?
Community pharmacy practice is beyond buying and selling. It involves a lot, such as: drug advice, monitoring, compliance, counselling and so on. The function of a community pharmacist as a professional can be summarised as responsible provision of drug therapy for the purpose of achieving a definite therapeutic outcome that improves the patient’s quality of life. These functions are carried out in conjunction with the patient and other healthcare providers to promote health, prevent disease and to access, monitor, initiate, and modify medication use, to ensure good therapeutic outcome. The era of charlatans will soon be over as their days are numbered.
Tell us about your relationship with the people of this community and the commonest health conditions that bring them to your pharmacy.
Community pharmacists can be said to be the gateway to health in any community because they are the first port of call before a referral can be made to the laboratory and the hospital, as the case maybe.
This is based on the trust the community has placed in community pharmacists over the years. The prevalent chronic conditions here are hypertension, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few. Malaria, on the other hand, is the commonest neighbour of most Nigerians.
What is your assessment of community pharmacy practice in Lagos State?
Community pharmacy practice in Lagos State is now more encouraging than it was two decades ago when I started my practice. As at that time, most community pharmacists were facing stiff opposition from traders and charlatans who happened to be moneybags. Also, fake drugs were on the rampage because of poor regulation of drug distribution. Now, the issue of fake drugs has been drastically reduced and we have more established community pharmacies and this has made community practice more attractive to the younger generations.
Recently, a pharmacist, in person of Pharm. Sunday Ike, the national publicity secretary of ACPN was gruesomely murdered at his premises. How would react to this?
The gruesome murder of Pharm. Sunday Ike, our national publicity secretary and former PSN chairman, Abuja, is a big blow to the community pharmacists and to the PSN as a whole. This brings to view the level of insecurity that is pervading the land.
We commiserate with the entire family of our noble colleague who has contributed in no small measure to the profession. I will use this occasion to remind our president, Major Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, about his promise during the campaign to put an end to insecurity in the nation, particularly in the north.
If you were to advise the stakeholders in Pharmacy on measures or policies that can help improve pharmacy practice in Nigeria, what would be your advice?
Drugs should be handled by professionals. The production, importation, storage, distribution, wholesaling, retailing and dispensing to the end users should be left alone to the professionals. This will put an end to fake drugs, misuse of drugs and drug abuse, which can send innocent people to untimely grave.
What do you think pharmacists should be doing to enable them contribute more to healthcare delivery especially at this period of COVID- 19?
Community pharmacists should be at the front line in enlightening the masses about the reality of COVID-19 and how to prevent the communal spread. Social distancing, the use of facemask, hand sanitizer and washing of hands among others are ways to prevent the spread of the disease and keep people safe.