Pharm. NAE Mohammed is the registrar of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN). In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Mohammed, whose fresh tenure of four years as PCN registrar was recently approved by the government, speaks on how he will consolidate on the achievements of his first tenure in the next four years, noting that he will be focusing on sanitising the practice environment through strengthening of enforcement activities. He also speaks on the 31 December, 2018 deadline for the take off of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs), the delay in signing the new pharmacy bill into law, the shortage of pharmacists in the country and the upcoming PSN election. Excerpts:
You implemented most of the core objectives you set for yourself in your strategic four-point agenda during your first term as registrar. Having now got a fresh term, what new goals have you decided to focus on?
Let me first thank you for acknowledging the modest achievements during my first tenure. A lot of trust was put in me to lead those initiatives by the PCN Governing Council, under the leadership of Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo. I remain humble and most grateful for the opportunity. The opportunity gave me a chance to utilise my management skills and put to practice private sector experiences in a public sector setting – with meeting the “customers”’ expectations as the driving force behind all our actions.
It was quite an interesting experience. I am glad it had positive outcomes and I am particularly pleased that pharmacists and other stakeholders saw the value in the work as well. Let me recognise the efforts of the management and staff at the PCN registry for their unflinching support. The body of pharmacists under the umbrella of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) equally deserves special commendation. All the technical groups of PSN were also very supportive.
My focus during my second tenure as registrar would be to consolidate the achievements of the first tenure. This effort has started in earnest and shall be vigorously pursued. Great attention shall be given to sanitising the practice environment through strengthening of enforcement activities with the 3RPs concept. This will be combined with ensuring experiential teaching and learning at the undergraduate training of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, to prepare them for the current practice environment.
I will continue to promote the use of ICT in our regulatory processes. We are about to launch various apps to facilitate interface with the Council; a new strategic plan shall be put in place for PCN to serve as roadmap for the organisation. The commencement of PharmD programme by all the accredited faculties of pharmacy will be given topmost priority. We will ensure discipline among professionals and equally ensure enforcement of rules and regulations. We will also continue to promote “new partnership for progress” initiatives which in turn will work with all stakeholders in the pharmaceutical landscape.
The regulation of pharmacy technicians and patent and proprietary medicine vendors in all ramifications will continue to receive good attention, using the instrument of the “hub and spoke” model to drive their full regulations.
31 December, 2018 is the expected date for dismantling the open drug market, a precursor to commencing full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs). How optimistic should Nigerians be concerning this December deadline?
Indeed, 31 December, 2018 remains the deadline for the implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines. We are very committed to this course and are quite optimistic. PCN is not in this alone. The Federal Ministry of Health, under the leadership of the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof Isaac F. Adewole, and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are all committed to this course. For emphasis, construction has been ongoing at the approved locations of the Coordinated Wholesale Centers (CWCs) in some of the states. The fact remains that the projects are very capital-intensive and efforts are being geared towards their completion. However, be rest assured that appropriate modalities that will guarantee smooth transition will be put in place.
The new pharmacy law has been on the table of the president awaiting assent for quite some time. Knowing how crucial this law is to the transformation of pharmacy practice in Nigeria, what will you say is the cause of this delay and are there steps that could be taken to hasten executive approval of the law?
The new pharmacy law is truly very important to a lot of our reforms. The bill passed through all the due legislative proceedings at the National Assembly before it was transmitted to Mr President for his assent. The bill is also encompassing and addressed the gaps in the extent Act and has brought under the regulation of PCN all bodies and participants involved in the open drugs market to arrest the current trend whereby drugs are made available through illegal and unregulated outlets. I am aware that Mr President is on it and I am very convinced that he will do justice to it very soon to enable us address, in totality, the scourge of drug abuse and illegal medicines sale outlets scattered all over the country, most especially in the rural and underserved areas.
There is still a great shortfall in the nation’s pharmacist-to-patient ratio, what should we be doing as a nation to bridge this gap and what are the efforts of the PCN so far in this direction?
There is no doubt that there is a shortfall in the nation’s pharmacist-to-patient ratio. However, accreditation of new faculties of pharmacy that have met the set standards is ongoing and increase in universities’ intake is also being look into by Council. Other strategies include the concept of satellite pharmacy, targeted at promoting access to quality, effective and affordable medicines, in line with the goal of National Drug Policy, is being put in place. Similarly, the Task Shifting and Task Sharing (TSTS) policy of the Federal Ministry of Health is being explored as an instrument to extend services to the lower levels of health services using the pharmacy technicians and the “hub and spoke” model in pharmacy practice.
What are your thoughts on the outgoing Pharm. Yakasai administration and what is your advice for his successor and for pharmacists in general as they go to the poll to elect the next PSN leadership?
The administration of the outgoing leadership of PSN, in person of Pharm Ahmed I. Yakasai, is very eventful. He is an astute administrator, bridge-builder and a digital personality. Pharm. Yakasai has demonstrated that he is a leader of extraordinary standing. As the saying goes, for every beginning there is an end. We will surely miss him but it is my prayers that God Almighty will give us a perfect replacement as we go into election to elect a new president at the 91st PSN annual conference.
To his successor, I will advise him that leadership is about service to the people. And for pharmacists in general, as they go to the poll to elect the next PSN leadership, they should understand and appreciate that election is not a do-or-die affair; after the election we shall still remain pharmacists and members of PSN. Therefore, as Men of Honour, we must join hand to make the poll a family and friendly matter. No victor, no vanquish. Whoever wins, it is victory for pharmacy, PSN and the generality of Nigerians who are expecting the maintenance and demonstration of the strong and enduring leadership that pharmacist is noted for, and not a divided house which will send a wrong signal to the entire healthcare family.
What are your thoughts on the concept of pharmacist’s prescription medicines? Should this idea be embraced to improve pharmacists’ contribution to healthcare delivery in Nigeria?
At the appropriate time, as it is done in other climes, the concept of pharmacist’s prescription medicines would be embraced to improve pharmacists’ contribution to healthcare delivery in Nigeria. Life is generally dynamic and every progressive people will desire to see progress in the way things are done not of course for individual benefit but rather for the benefit of the society which in this case is the patient.
Work is ongoing on getting an appropriate prescription policy for the country. This effort is on the directive of the Honourable Minister of Health. It will be undertaken jointly by the PCN, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Nigeria Medical Association and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. Let me assure you that work has started on prescription policy, with focus on Controlled Medicines.
I can say that it has been so far so good working as registrar of PCN, in rendering services to the people of Nigeria.