Key leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, including the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Prof. Cyril Usifoh; Chairman, Lagos State PSN, Pharm. Gbolagade Iyiola; and Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Pharm. (Dr) N.A.E. Mohammed, have unanimously identified technology as a game-changer in the profession, calling on all stakeholders to leverage it in shutting out intruders from the practice.
The notables spoke with Pharmanews in separate interviews at the launch of Pharmacentre, a pharma digital marketplace, created by Wellness Medical Distribution Ltd. They averred that with the creation of regulated digital pharmaceutical market spaces for manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and end-users, the perennial problem of illegal drug distribution system in the country will be over, as operators of open drug markets will have a tough time sustaining their illicit business.
Prof. Usifoh further emphasised the importance of pharma digital platforms in the fight against circulation of substandard pharma products in the country, saying it will afford community pharmacists the opportunity of procuring genuine drugs for their outlets.
“This is the right time for every pharmacist to embrace technology, because if you don’t embrace technology now, then you might be overtaken by technology,” Usifoh said.
Buttressing the views of the PSN President, Pharm. Iyiola likened the revolutionising impact of technology on human existence and daily living to the effects it would have on pharmacy practice, if all key players would embrace it for the development of the profession.
Iyiola said: “We know the influence of technology on our daily lives, as it has brought about a lot of improvement and better ways of doing things. We know that Nigeria, as it is today is bedevilled with a chaotic drug distribution system. I believe if everybody in the system can embrace it, it will chase charlatans away.”
He continued: “Secondly, illegal drugs markets across the countries, like Idumota, Sabon Gari and Ariaria, will be drastically reduced or totally closed, if all players agree to go the way of technology in pharma drug distribution. This is very possible because by the time the markets are not thriving as they ought, they will cease to exist.
“The illegal drug markets still exist because they are enjoying patronage; but if, by the grace of God, major stakeholders like manufacturers and importers, who are already feeding the markets, stop doing that, definitely, the markets will die a natural death.”
Usifoh and Iyiola also allayed pharmacists’ fears of potential dubious dealings on digital platforms, stating that any pharmaceutical digital market space that will be recognised by the PSN must be under the regulation of the PCN, and should any issue arise with a product, it can be traced to the supplier on the platform.
Describing the creation of the digital pharma marketspace as a step in the right direction, Dr Mohammed, said it will boost the employment of young pharmacists online, especially those who have been struggling with the financial capacity to acquire capital-intensive infrastructure to operate online.
According to him, “Recently, we launched online pharmacy regulations but we found out that some young pharmacists in community practice can’t afford the huge infrastructure of IT. So what Wellness has done today is a very good concept, because they have helped all community pharmacists that want to do online pharmacy to invest in IT infrastructure; all they need to do is to come under their platform.”
Mohammed, who was represented at the occasion by Pharm. (Dr) Ukamaka Okafor, PCN Lagos coordinator, said PCN will ensure that all operators abide by the regulations.
“Any pharmacist that will come under Pharmacentre must be registered by the PCN. And they have a lot of channels – wholesale to retailers, and retailers to end users. In that last mile distribution, it is expected that patients interface with a pharmacist before having access to the platform. So patients are not supposed to have access without interplaying with the pharmacist,” Mohammed said.
Reacting to questions on unethical drugs advertisement on social media, the PCN registrar said advertisements of pharmaceutical products falls under the orbit of NAFDAC regulations, stressing that it is unethical for anyone to advertise ethical products on social media.
“Anyone that advertises products on that level is always been sanctioned by NAFDAC. It is unethical to advertise such products online,” he stated.
Speaking during the launch of the platform, Pharm. (Mrs) Adetutu Afolabi, MD/CEO of Wellness Healthcare Group and founder, Pharmacentre, said: “Today’s world is filled with uncertainty, broken infrastructure, and numerous supply chain challenges. As affordability and accessibility to pharmaceutical supplies has become a strong pain point, having a value-driven platform like Pharmacentre that enhances collaboration amongst pharmacists and other healthcare providers will improve the wellbeing of our people.
“Nobody should be left stranded because he or she does not have a pharmacist in his or her network.
“It is a controlled platform because pharmacists will be on the ground for telemedicine consultation. The need for traceability is also captured because all vendors on the platform must be registered. We can close any store that may be found wanting at any point in time. The beauty of it all is for pharmacists to be able to stock their stores without any hassle”.