Pharm. Adetutu Afolabi, the managing director, Wellness Pharmacy and the financial secretary, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Ketu/Ojota/Magodo/Ogudu/Shangisha Zone is a reporter’s delight, any day. However, fixing an appointment with her is very difficult. She has such a busy schedule that one wonders how she copes with other things, aside from professional calls. In an interview with Pharmanews in her office at Ketu Alapere, Lagos, Pharm Afolabi spoke on some of the major challenges facing community pharmacists in Nigeria and equally addressed the challenges facing the practice as a whole.
Below is the excerpt:
Can you tell us what led to the establishment of Wellness Pharmacy?
We established Wellness Pharmacy because, aside being a pharmacist, there was a need to be available for our kids. Glaxo Smithkline was my former employer and my husband then was a staff member of Nestle Nigeria. There was a year we had to attend a sales conference at the same time. Meanwhile, we had a baby of about four to five months old and there was no one to leave the baby with.We had to find somewhere eventually to take the baby to. When we came back, we thought about it and concluded that we owe our children our time, so we thought about starting a business. That was how Wellness Pharmacy was established in 2007. But it became fully operational in 2008, when I resigned fully to manage the business.
Do you have so much money to start this business?
Except someone is giving you a lot of money to start your business, most of the time, what you have is never enough, and you just need to move on, follow your dream. We paid the rent in instalments, borrowed money from family and friends, collected stock from colleagues and wholesalers, paid the man that made the shelves in instalments. We are happy we had the guts to start and we have been able to add value to peoples’ lives.
Tell us some of the challenges you have faced, as a community pharmacist?
One of the challenges that amazed me so much in Nigeria is that we have lost our moral value system. People come to your outlet to make dirty deals, to steal and to do all sorts of illegal things. You keep changing staff, not only because they are lazy or rude to your customers, but because most of them steal. In an outlet, where you have four to five staff, they could conspire to steal your money or the stock. Other colleagues could conspire with your staff to sell their products. Sometimes, they collect phone numbers of your customers to service them outside your pharmacy. So, one of my major challenges, as an employer of labour, is lack of human resources that are dedicated, honest and that have integrity. Gone are the days when females are preferred over the males because they don’t steal, but now everything has changed. Another major challenge is that we have some people, who registered as wholesalers and who are not supposed to sell to individuals, irrespective of the quantity. You would realise that an average person would rather prefer to patronise them because they sell at a very low price. Some would even come to you for consultation and still go back to those places to buy, so it is worrisome. But we thank God that those who value our products and services,because they know that they always get value for their money, do patronise us and we have been moving from strength to strength.
How lucrative is it being a community pharmacist?
Some people come in to community pharmacy practice and they get a shocker of their lives. However, if you are doing a business that affords you opportunities to live your dream, enjoy the basic things of lives and be a blessing to others, such a business is definitely lucrative. In community pharmacy practice, your needs can be met and the satisfaction you get saving lives of others is significant. What you want to achieve before you start your business is crucial.
How many outlets do you have now?
We have four outlets across the state and we are becoming a household name in the state. The most important thing I enjoy most in this community practice is service to humanity.
How would you assess pharmacy practice in Nigeria?
I will say pharmacy practice in Nigeria is still developing. We are not doing enough, in terms of manufacturing and effective distribution of pharmaceutical products. We still have a lot we are battling with. I wonder why we are still unable to curtail the activities of the charlatans and the drug fakers. Our school system too is another major factor; we have so many pharmacy graduates who don’t know the intricacies of pharmacy practice. They do a lot of cramming while in school and when they graduate, they find it difficult to answer basic pharmacological questions.
How do you see pharmacy profession today, compared to when you started?
I will say we have only recorded a little improvement. I discovered that anytime issues concerning pharmacy are being discussed, those issues would still be those that have been discussed about eleven years ago. It is disheartening that those eleven years after I left pharmacy school, we still could not proffer solution to those issues. I am talking about issues like wholesalers and patent medicine dealer activities not being regulated, drug markets that are fake and substandard drugs are being sold. They are the same issues over and over and we are unable to find solutions to them.
Thumbs up for your boldness to become an entrepreneur in a difficult business terrain as ours. Your responses in this article are straight, short, sharp and honest.
Wishing you the very best in the business world.