Dr Otakho Daniel Orumwense, more popularly known as “Dr Dan” by his teeming admirers, is the deputy president (South) of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). Orumwense, a Fellow of the PSN and the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy (FCPharm). He was a former chairman of PSN, Bayelsa State and has served the PSN at various levels – his most recent assignment being chairman of the PSN Narcotic and Drug Abuse Committee (PSN NARDCOM).
In this interview with Pharmanews, Orumwense a notable aspirant for the position of president in the upcoming PSN election coming up in November, speaks on his plans to consolidate the gains of the past PSN leaderships and especially on the success of the outgoing PSN leadership he has been part of. Excerpts:
You have served the PSN at different levels and in various capacities over the years. You are also currently the national deputy president, South, for the Society. What prompted your involvement in the activities of organised pharmacy and why have you decided to throw your hat in the ring for the upcoming PSN presidential election?
Yes, it is true that I have served the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) at various executive levels. I have served as chairman of the Bayelsa State Branch of PSN, national publicity secretary and now deputy president (South).
My service to PSN has been principally motivated by desire and passion to serve mankind. I strongly believe that the sure way to serve Almighty God is through service to humanity. I am therefore seeking the office of president of PSN for the following reasons: To continue my service to humanity; to take PSN and pharmacists to where we should be; to liberate the pharmacy profession from the hands of our oppressors and detractors; to ensure that Pharmacy is practised with dignity in our country, Nigeria; to ensure that pharmacy practice is reasonably rewarding to practitioners and the larger society; to give hope to every pharmacist in Nigeria and ensure a secure future for the young and the old alike, especially the young pharmacists who represent our future; and to ensure that pharmacists are not shortchanged in any way, by anyone or group.
Generally, my mission is to consolidate the gains made by the previous PSN leaderships and to build on them for the betterment of pharmacists and humanity. I believe, and very strongly, too, that I have a lot to offer our great Society and its members. I have what it takes to lead our Society to greater heights for the benefit of mankind.
The current outgoing administration, led by Pharm Ahmed I. Yakassai, has, no doubt, performed beyond expectations. Yakassai has taken PSN from where he met it in 2015 to new heights in 2018. The advocacy activities of our Society in the last three years have yielded for us world-recognised positives. The most outstanding achievements include greater respect for pharmacists and the pharmacy profession. Grassroots advocacy to the royal fathers in various states has tremendously helped the cause of Pharmacy. Our involvement in the fight against drug abuse in the last three years has been unprecedented. The young pharmacists have become very visible, such that they are able to partner with NAFDAC in the YADA programme, as part of our efforts to stem the menace of drug abuse in Nigeria. Our properties, especially the Victoria Island property, is now firmly back in the hands of the Society for us to utilise.
All technical groups of the PSN have also benefited tremendously from the activities of PSN. Let me just mention some of these benefits. The ACPN was able to acquire a property to serve as its national secretariat. NAPA was revived and has come back on stream. The PSN paid advocacy visits to Hon. Minister of Health; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the leadership of the NASS and so on.
For NAIP, one of the first activities of the PSN under Yakassai was to bring together all interest groups in the drug manufacture and distribution sectors. For the first time, some consensus were reached and I believe that the concerned parties are following up. PSN paid visits to various manufacturing companies with a view to learning, firsthand, their success and challenges.
The Society interfaced with various organisations: National Universities Commission (NUC) – on the Pharm D matter (This has been approved); National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) – with a view to resolving the issues surrounding the emergence of some unacceptable academic programmes, such as Pharmaceutical Technology, being offered in Polytechnics, (This is currently being addressed); National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), on drug products and quality issues as well as drug abuse; National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) – for cooperation and collaboration; The Nigeria Police – graduate pharmacists seeking recruitment into the Police Force are now enlisted as DSP; The Nigeria police and NSCDC for inspectorate and enforcement activities.
The PSN PCFAH activities have been upgraded to the level of an NGO that attracts parents. This culminated in the establishment of the PSN Foundation. The PSN equally paid a visit to the Nigerian Securities and Exchange (NSE). This was to seek partnerships with NSE that will translate to better business and financial environment for the pharma sector.
PSN has been at the forefront of advocacy for the actualisation of cooperation and collaboration amongst healthcare professionals with a view to ensuring that the challenge of professional rivalry is overcome.
Having been part of this outgoing Yakasai administration and all that it achieved, what objectives have you set to achieve if elected PSN president in November?
My administration will be all-inclusive; no one will be left out. The deputy presidents will be put in charge of technical groups for better understanding and effectiveness. Our secretariat will be strengthened to provide necessary support to all pharmacists. We shall intensify our advocacy efforts and lobby all relevant stakeholders and governments inside and outside Nigeria.
This advocacy will be extended to the traditional institutions and communities. The expected outcome is to reposition, re-engineer and rebrand our profession for a better tomorrow for all pharmacists and the people of Nigeria.
We shall maintain a visible presence in the corridors of power. We shall establish an intelligence unit that will gather and analyse information for us to make informed decisions and act accordingly.
We shall also engage other health professionals with a view to bringing about harmony in the health sector. We shall encourage and empower our young pharmacists in order to give them hope for a better and brighter future.
We shall continue to advocate for a more conducive work environment for all pharmacists, irrespective of practice setting. This, we believe, will bring about greater job satisfaction and remuneration. We shall continue to push for the release of the circular recognising consultancy status of Fellows of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists. We shall also push for appropriate placement for Pharm. D holders. We shall advocate for a uniform salary and pay structure for all pharmacists in public service.
Our advocacy to the universities will equally continue. This will enable us to have firsthand knowledge of the learning environment of students and the working conditions of lecturers. We shall advocate for the payment of professional allowances to our lecturer colleagues.
For our colleagues in community practice, we shall engage the NHIS to abrogate the global capitation payment mechanism and get back to the recommended and agreed “fee for service”. In addition, we shall pursue the ongoing discussions on pharmacists’ prescription rights.
We will also work assiduously for the faithful implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG), Satellite Pharmacy Concept, as well as the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN)’s proposed supervision of Patent and Proprietary Medicines Vendors Licence (PPMVL).
We shall partner strongly with PCN and NAFDAC to ensure that the Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee (PIC) and taskforce activities are properly carried out, so as to clean up the ugly and chaotic drug distribution system in Nigeria. We will ensure that our members do not suffer undue harassment from any group, and that every pharmacist will be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
What are your thoughts on how to further foster interprofessional collaboration among health professionals and reduce rivalry in the health sector?
Interprofessional collaboration is key to optimal healthcare delivery everywhere in the world. Nigeria cannot be an exception. It must also apply in our country, if healthcare delivery services will truly benefit Nigerians. All healthcare professionals, especially the frontline ones like pharmacists, doctors and nurses, must learn to respect one another. They must collaborate and cooperate in the interest of the patient.
The fact that we have been trained and licensed to take care of patients, whether sick or not, does not make us superhumans or demigods. In the light of the above, it is important that all professionals must cooperate and collaborate. We must share knowledge and experiences with a view to ensuring that optimal healthcare is delivered to those in need at all times.
As president of PSN, I will build on the foundation that has been laid by the current PSN administration. This administration, in which I currently serve as deputy president (South), collaborated with other healthcare professionals through advocacy and courtesy visits and dialogue with the leaderships of the professions. We need to replicate this at lower levels. Each profession must accord others the respect and dignity that each deserves. The PSN has championed this course; I intend to follow through and will not stop until our goal is achieved.
As president, I will push for the convening of a health sector harmony summit, to be midwifed by the Federal Ministry of Labour. In the event that the ministry is unwilling, we will look for other partners to actualise this. PSN will continue to champion this course of action.
Nigeria is said to depend on importation for over 75 per cent of her drugs needs. How can we reduce this overdependence on importation, considering the fact that drug availability has now become not just a health but a security issue for nations?
According to your statistics, a situation where over 75 per cent of our pharmaceutical needs are imported is unacceptable. We just cannot continue like that. All hands must be on deck to reverse this ugly trend. Government needs to protect our pharma industry, using all available machinery and policies. The prices of imported pharmaceuticals should not be lower than those made locally. We must find a way around this. This trend must be reversed to the benefit of our people.
PSN will advocate for a quantum leap in funding to encourage local research and development of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and excipients. Our expectations of successive governments in Nigeria to actualise the third phase of the petrochemical industry have not been fulfilled. We cannot afford to continue to wait endlessly. However, PSN will continue to push for the establishment of the petrochemical factory.
In the meantime, we can import basic petrochemicals that are required for the production of intermediate products, APIs and excipients for small and medium scale production. PSN will push for a position that will encourage importers to engage manufacturers for local contract manufacture of pharmaceuticals.
Alternative sources of funding for research will have to be explored and exploited. Those items for which there is reasonable capacity to produce in Nigeria, we shall advocate for a restriction on the importation of such items. The Executive Order by the President of Nigeria on the need to buy and consume made-in-Nigeria products is a welcome development. PSN will encourage the use of made-in-Nigeria medicines and pharmaceuticals.
PSN will arrange a summit for all the players in pharma production, import and distribution industry with a view to producing a pharmacy position paper that will be presented to government. For this to succeed, faithful implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines of 2012, as amended, is key. PSN must collaborate with PCN, NAFDAC and other stakeholders to ensure its success.