– As Dean urges review of pharmacy curriculum
As part of efforts to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported medicines, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), has resumed work on the institution’s drug production unit, otherwise known as UNN drug production project.
Disclosing this in an interview with Pharmanews recently, the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Kenneth Chibuzor Ofokansi, revealed that the management of the university has commissioned the faculty to revive the project which had been initiated earlier but put on hold for some reasons.
Ofokansi, a professor of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, added that the institution’s leadership has also mandated the faculty to start production of drugs that can be made available in commercial quantity. He disclosed that one of the drugs to be produced in the facility is Lion Paracetamol, stressing that some of the products from the factory will soon be available in the Nigeria drug market.
The dean said: “There is an ongoing effort to resuscitate the pilot production unit of the faculty which has not functioned for many years. Thanks to the current university administration which has shown willingness to support the faculty in reviving the pilot plant project, which is now at an advanced stage to commence production of some dosage forms.
“The university administration has given order to our faculty to produce some products which can be made commercially available, including the “Lion Paracetamol”. In no distant time, our products will storm the Nigerian drug market and we are hopeful that these efforts should reduce Nigeria’s dependence on the importation of drugs.”
Ofokansi noted that, as a hotbed of cutting-edge research, the faculty is continually involved in drug discovery and development efforts, adding that it will continue to set the pace for other colleges of pharmacy in moving the pharmaceutical sector forward.
He said: “The faculty has many research groups whose ongoing researches are sponsored by the National Research Fund of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). Prominent among many projects are the researches on ‘Nano theranosic formulation of kaurenoic acid for effective target delivery in the treatment of breast and prostate cancer and determination of the mechanism of action’. It was led by Professor Theophine Akunne. Another one is ‘Generation of keratin from chicken feather and its application in the development of artemether-clotrimazole transdermal films and nanogels for malaria combo-therapy’, under the control of Dr. Frankline C. Kenechukwu.
“A cursory look at repositories, such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and so on, will provide you with insights into the magnitude of research discoveries in the faculty. There are, at least, six patents, both national and international, that have emanated from the research efforts of our staff.”
Speaking further, the Dean disclosed: “Another major development recorded in the faculty is the selection of the University of Nigeria for the siting of an international anti-doping laboratory by the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth development.
“Prior to selecting the University of Nigeria to host this laboratory, a team from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development had visited our faculty on a fact-finding mission and in the process, interacted with the dean and key members of staff of our faculty whose expertise would be useful in running the anti-doping laboratory when completed.”
While emphasising the faculty’s commitment to quality education, Ofokansi who expressed delight at the quality of staff and resource persons in the faculty stated that the major driver of qualitative education anywhere in the world is the quality of manpower, saying the faculty currently has the highest number of professors among the faculties of pharmacy in Nigeria.
In his words: “The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in UNN is far ahead of all the pharmacy schools in Nigeria and arguably in sub-Saharan Africa. At present, the faculty can boast of 30 full professors, three associate professors (readers), over 20 senior lecturers, in addition to over 68 lower cadres (Lecturer I and below). This is unprecedented in any pharmacy school in Nigeria.
“Moreover, this number is expected to swell in no distant time as the number of staff being assessed for promotion to full professors, readers and senior lecturers is currently high. Our academic staff are among the most cited, globally visible and the most widely published in the whole of the University of Nigeria. No pharmacy school in Nigeria can boast of this record.
“Two of our academic staff are winners and recipients of the NLNG-sponsored Nigerian Science Prize and three of our staff are Fellows of the Nigeria Academy of Science. About eight of our staff are Fellows of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (Foundation) tenable in Germany and many are Fellows of other renowned international fellowships.”
The professor of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, who is also a member-elect of the University of Nigeria Governing Council, however advocated for a thorough and regular review of the pharmacy curriculum to reflect current realities, stressing that curriculum is an important ingredient in pharmacy education.
He noted that while the present curriculum is good, there should be room for periodic review to accommodate emerging issues, such as the upshots of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The practice of waiting for up to five years or more before reviewing our curriculum should be revisited to properly situate our curriculum with global best practices, trends and expected outcomes.
“Moreover, a curriculum replete with theory-based courses hardly drives any profession to any result-oriented destination; and that is where the greater job should be done whenever a review is necessary. Expectedly, this direction requires improvement in the infrastructure of our universities to be able to navigate the ever-changing narratives in pharmacy education.
“There is also a school of thought that holds the view that our curriculum is overloaded and that most of what pharmacy students are taught in Nigeria is not really necessary in the actual practice of Pharmacy as a profession.”