Stakeholders Proffer Technology as Panacea to Drug Distribution Challenge

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L-R: Mr Jacob Kurian; Varkey Verghese, managing director, Jawa International Ltd; Former President, PSN and Managing Director, PharmaPlus Nigeria Ltd, Pharm. (Alh.) Ahmed I. Yakasai; Co-Founders of DrugStoc, Chibuzo Opara and Adham Yehia, at the event recently.

Notable leaders in the pharmaceutical industry have advocated the digital technology space as a reliable avenue for drug distribution, saying the channel is more insulated to the menace of fake and substandard medicines currently rattling the country.

While expressing confidence that the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines, being championed by the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN), will successfully tackle the challenge of open drug markets, the personages touted digital technology adoption as an innovative means of curbing unwholesome drugs distribution in the country.

The leaders, who included President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Prof. Cyril Usifoh; Registrar, Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) Pharm. Bababshehu Ahmed; and former President, PSN, Pharm. (Alh.) Ahmed Yakasai, spoke at the “Open Day”, recently organised by the manufacturers of DrugStoc, a cloud-based platform that makes quality medicines easily accessible to healthcare providers.

They stressed that giving more recognition to the digital pharmaceutical space will significantly help in curtailing the activities of middlemen, who hinder hospitals and pharmacies from accessing genuine, quality medicines in due time.

Prof. Usifoh, while addressing participants at the event, held at DrugStoc’s new facility in Ojota, Lagos, expressed optimism in the Nigerian healthcare delivery system with the likes of the online distribution company springing up.

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Usifoh, who was represented by National Secretary, PSN, Pharm. Gbenga Falabi, said, “When the initiative came, I knew that was the way to go because falsifying medicines is a global problem which must be tackled headlong.

“The e-healthcare platform is the future of the industry, which is already taking root now. This explains why PCN has already gazetted online pharmacy regulation, to enhance the smooth operation of digital drug distribution in the country.”

The PCN Registrar, Ahmed, who was represented by the Lagos State Zonal Coordinator, Dr Ukamaka Okafor, described DrugStoc as a huge innovation, which has several functions for the pharma sector that are yet to be known by many industry players.

Lauding the platform’s managers for giant strides in the past five years of its operation, Ahmed urged them to create more awareness about the platform’s potentials, as well as mentoring younger pharmacists, who wish to emulate them.

According to the registrar, “We are pleased with what DrugStoc is doing, but they need to create more awareness. It is obvious they have a lot of value to add to the pharmaceutical sector which many people don’t know. There are some people that have the money to do what they are doing in the country but they don’t have the facts and the knowledge; they don’t have the exposure.

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“What concerns us the most in what they are doing is not profit, but access to safe medicines for the populace and I feel that is also part of their goals.”

Also speaking, Pharm. (Alh.) Yakasai, commended the co-founders of DrugStoc, Chibuzo Opara and Adham Yehia, for their efforts towards the provision of safe, accessible and affordable medicines.  He asserted that while partnership is tough in Nigeria, the two are getting it right.

“Good governance is key; none of you should short-change the other,” he advised, adding, “I know they are people of quality; that is why they are offering quality service”.

In an exclusive interview with the founders, Opara and Yehia, shortly after the programme, they expressed profound gratitude to the over 200 stakeholders they had been doing business with for the past five years, describing it as an interesting journey. They also acknowledged the support of regulators in midwifing the digital distribution platform.

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The partners also narrated how they had enhanced the growth of many pharmacies through the provision of digital tools, inventory assistance, supply chain management and flexible payment options to enable them to stock more products for patients’ best outcomes.

According to them “One of the things that digital inclusion has achieved over the last five years that we’ve seen is obviously moving the quality standards to a different level, improving the track and trace in the industry, improving the business for a lot of pharmaceuticals. We’ve seen a lot of people join us, who had one pharmacy, and then within a couple of years, they were able to open two, three, four pharmacies.

“It became very simple for them because when they work with us; we support their businesses, support their supply chain management, give them tools to help them manage their businesses, as well as help them with the inventory. Much more, we give them financial support, as we offer them flexible payment options to boost their businesses.”

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