Pharm. Olakunle Odesanya is the managing director of Molad Jones Pharmacy, based in Jos, Plateau State. He is also the state’s chairman of Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN). In this interview with Pharmanews, Odesanya gives a panoramic assessment of pharmacy practice in Plateau State, as well as assurances of the state’s readiness to host community pharmacists nationwide at the upcoming 2017 national conference. He also spoke on why pharmacies in the state are been restructured to enable pharmacists provide pharmaceutical care. Excerpts:
What was growing up like?
It was fun. As a young boy in Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti, I was very good in both Arts and Science subjects. My passion for science subjects was fuelled by my desire to be a health professional, but definitely not a medical doctor. Eventually, I settled for Pharmacy because I realised that my performance in Chemistry and Mathematics would have a big role to play in pharmacy education or career. I was trained at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and graduated in the year 1987.
My career in community pharmacy practice started in 1990 at Botsi Pharmacy, Jos, where I worked as superintendent pharmacist before I started my company, Molad Jones Pharmacy in 1994. I am married to Pharm. Rachel Unekwu (Nee Ogbadu) who is an assistant director at Jos University Teaching Hospital. We are blessed with three lovely children
What prompted you to vie for ACPN chairmanship?
My motivation for contesting for the post of chairman stems from my passion for service, as well as my reputation among the membership of the association. I was determined to bring about a sense of belonging, prosperity and liberty to the practice, without fear of intimidation from any quarter.
What have been your major achievements and challenges since you became the state chairman?
We have achieved a lot to the glory of God. First is inculcation of the spirit of brotherhood and comradeship among our members. Community pharmacists in Plateau State now relate better with one another and we even cooperate and collaborate with one another. We also bought a Sienna bus to boost our professional image and to also convey our members to meetings and conferences.
Other achievements are establishment of empowerment groups which operate mini cooperative and thrift activities; and establishment of loans for the empowerment group, to enable members of each empowerment group access loan from the money sourced from the purse of the association.
In addition, the association now has a legal adviser who, incidentally, is also a pharmacist and a past chairman of the PSN in Plateau State. He is Pharm. (Barr.) Tony Egwuonwu. He takes up any case from us whenever the need arises and also educates us on legal matters effecting our profession and practice.
We also offered support to the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS) University of Jos. ACPN-Plateau has become a pillar of support to PANS (UNIJOS) with an award for the best graduating student in pharmacy which has just been instituted in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. There are other achievements that time will fail me to mention.
As ACPN chairman, what is your assessment of community pharmacy practice in the state?
Community pharmacy practice in Plateau State has evolved over the years. Pharmacies are structured in a manner that gives room for interaction between us and our clients. Also, we now devote more time and energy to pharmaceutical care, while we also work with regulatory agencies like PCN, NAFDAC and NDLEA, as partners in promoting and safeguarding the health of Nigerians.
Also, members of the public are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits they stand to gain by patronising registered pharmacies in their communities.
However, community pharmacies can thrive better if some challenges, such as involvement of charlatans in drug distribution and indiscriminate opening of drug stores, can be tackled probably through implementation of the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG).
Aside pharmacy practice, what is your general view of the current state of the healthcare sector in this state?
Plateau State is arguably the focal point in the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria, therefore, the health sector in the state is very crucial, especially with the tertiary health institution (JUTH) that has been in existence for several years. There is also the Plateau State Specialist Hospital in Jos. We also have several private specialist hospitals that receive referrals from within and outside the state. There are also many new primary health centres in the State.
I am also aware that the Plateau State Ministry of Health has a Rapid Response Team (RRT) that keeps surveillance on infectious diseases, including ebola, Lassa fever, cholera, meningitis and others. Also, various professional groups such as PSN, NMA, ACPN and others hold awareness programmes on prevention and treatment of diseases, while health outreaches that serve as intervention programmes are conducted by these professional groups and many faith based organisations (FBOs) and NGOs.
In a nutshell, the health sector in Plateau State is faring well though there is always room for improvement.
The next national conference of ACPN is holding in this state in July. What positive changes should community pharmacists in the country expect at the conference?
At the risk of sounding immodest, the 36th ACPN National Conference which is to hold in Jos, Plateau State come July, promises to surpass all others before it because the hospitality of the people of Plateau State is almost second to none in Nigeria and delegates will come to testify about it.
Also, the cost of attending the conference is another advantage for delegates as they will make a lot of saving on expenditure. We should not forget that Jos city also has historic roles in the development of Nigeria and that is why people that have serious matters to discuss always converge in the city.
Moreover, the forthcoming conference promises to be a turning point as regards the resolution of all lingering issues, and all delegates are assured of adequate security and comfort at every point because every delegate shall be treated as a king (laughs). I am already seeing the possibility of many delegates establishing strong links with Jos and Plateau State after the conference as a result of their experience during the conference.
What knotty areas in the profession do you think stakeholders at the conference should address?
Areas that I think should be addressed include the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) – because as at today not many community pharmacists are enjoying patronage from the scheme; the chaotic drug distribution system that we have in the country (although I do hope that the implementation of the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines will be recommended); welfare schemes that will ensure prosperity for community pharmacists; avenues that seek to expand the relevance of community pharmacists in the health sector; and strategies that will encourage young pharmacists to come into community practice, among others burning issues.
As a key stakeholder in the profession, what is your advice to young pharmacists?
Even in the face of contemporary daunting challenges, young pharmacists should remain resolute, have faith in God and believe in themselves. They should have a positive mental attitude towards life and should work hard and smart. They also need to be patient and not lose focus. I trust God to crown their efforts with success.