Industry experts have often attributed the lingering problems of poor handling of medicine, difficulty in product tracking for statistical purpose and for recall, circulation of substandard products, difficulty in audit trail, as well as destruction of professional practice, to the current chaotic open drug distribution system in the country. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Pharm. Ismail Kola Sunmonu, managing director of Caratiyah Pharmacy and zonal coordinator, Ipaja, Dopemu, Egbeda and Akowonjo (IDEA) zone of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), lends his voice to the lingering issue and how improvements can be made. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of community pharmacy practice in Lagos State?
Based on my personal opinion, pharmacy has not fared well enough, although it is getting there gradually. Maybe with the exception of a few pharmacies that have become a bit successful, especially those pharmacies in high-brow areas that cater mainly to the rich, community pharmacy practice, or drug selling majorly, has been left to the mercy of patent and proprietary medicine vendors (PPMVs).
Nearly half of all the registered community pharmacists in the country are jostling for unavailable spaces in the Lagos metropolis, with poor sales driving most of them into “register and go” and, sometimes, outright fronting for businessmen, who later graduate to join the train at the open drug markets.
However, I believe that community pharmacy is a goldmine for pharmacists, even though majority do not know what they have.
Drug abuse has been on the increase recently, how rampant is this menace in your zone?
IDEA zone is an embodiment of ideas. Six years ago or thereabout, we had a resolution on the floor of one of our meetings that no member of IDEA zone should patronise the open drug market for any reason. This codeine issue had not even become so widely spread, and they obeyed.
It was on the basis of that resolution that we invited very vibrant wholesalers into our midst. This has given us, as a zone, the ability to beat our chest that the drugs we put on our shelves are of utmost quality. When as a zone, we begin to do things right, the public benefits.
On the menace of drug abuse, during the World Malaria Day, we were not just talking malaria; we were mentioning other drugs that were constantly being abused. We went to marketplaces and so many other areas and spoke the language of the public, so that people would know the risk involved in drug abuse.
We believe that if the government is ready to be serious about this fight, then we are more than ready to be used and they can come and partner with us.
There are about 160 registered pharmacists in this zone, are they able to satisfy the populace of this area?
As far as this zone is concerned, we have more than enough pharmacists for cater to the pharmaceutical needs of this zone. However, we want to implore the regulatory bodies to step up their game. They can begin to look at ways to add value to pharmaceutical practice by ensuring that people do what the law has given them licence to do. Retail pharmacy business is an exclusive preserve of pharmacist-owned premises. What we now have is that people who have been licensed to act as wholesalers are stepping in to also act as retailers.
We protect this zone jealously from charlatans. The law does not allow you to locate a patent medicine store in towns where there is adequate pharmaceutical presence. The patent medicine vendors are for the outskirts and rural areas where you do not have adequate pharmaceutical presence and they have regulated materials that they should handle.
How lucrative is community pharmacy in this zone?
Presently, I will not say it is bad but we are not yet where we ought to be. So, if things are done right, I don’t see the reason why a pharmacist should not be able to pay his bills. That is why we are organising various programmes in IDEA Zone so that we can make sure that pharmacists in this zone can make their businesses profitable.