THEME: TACKLING THE MENACE OF DRUG ABUSE: A DISRUPTIVE INNOVATIVE APPROACH
I am thankful to God for making this year’s national conference of ACPN possible. It is so gratifying that many community Pharmacists and other Pharmacists belonging to other technical arms of our great Society – the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria are gathered this week in the ancient city of Kano to take stock and plot the way forward.
It is certain that we are living in interesting times in our Nation. Many things are going wrong in Nigeria and the current assault on Pharmacy is just one of the ramifications of the challenge Nigeria is facing. It therefore becomes apposite that Community Pharmacists need to meet to dimension the problems and devise strategies to overcome them. It is my candid view that our ability to overcome these challenges will depend on our continued relevance to the medicine consuming Public that we serve.Therefore, our focus must be undivided. The better the quality of our service, the better the quality of our counseling and other components of Pharmaceutical care that we offer the patients and our customers, the more our impact and relevance is established.
One area our relevance is being challenged as well as being demanded is the area of drug abuse. I am very strong on my view that if registered pharmaceutical products are being abused, the Pharmacist can not totally absolve himself from some level of culpability. Some of our culpability has arisen from acts of omission and commission.Pharmacists are the trained professionals who are custodians of Medicine all over the World. There is no other professional with superior knowledge on drug formulation, drug pharmacology, pharmacotherapy, pharmacodynamics and Pharmacovigilance.
The truth is that, in Nigeria over the years, the drug supply system has been broken into by unauthorized persons due largely to policy dissonance and poor enforcement which has undermined the custodial role of the Pharmacist, thereby so many issues and decisions regarding drug administration and management are being done or taken over his head or under his feet. Therefore, the first and sustainable step in tackling the menace of drug abuse is to restore the Pharmacist to take full control and oversight of the drug distribution chain from the factory or the ports to the patient wherever he is located. No patient should consume any drug of any description without the intervention of the Pharmacist in one way or the other- directly or indirectly through delegated and personally supervised assistants. And for me today, the signing into law of the new Pharmacy Council Bill is the most significant legislation required to close the gaps and give the Pharmacist the central role in ensuring the sanctity of the whole drug distribution chain.
The next equally critical step is for Pharmacists especially our community Pharmacists to wake up and close all the gaps that are being exploited. I wonder whose licenses are used to import 250mg or 400mg of Tramadol? Under whose license do women buy cartons of Codeine cough syrup which they place under their beds and abuse at will? Was there proper surveillance from the factory or port to such homes. I have insisted that no Person should buy medications especially ethical products from our Pharmacies without appropriate documentation and counseling. Fight against drug abuse must be started with ensuring that all who come into contact with drugs either through prescription or by self recommendation( where allowed) must have full understanding that when drugs of any sort are used outside the recommended indication, dose,or duration the patient or consumer was taking a conscious effort to poison himself or herself. As at today, that consciousness does not exist. Many people erroneously treat medicines or drugs as food-equivalents. Pharmacists must be committed to discouraging unnecessary drug consumption, even it means missing opportunities to earn income.
Looking at the contents of your program and the caliber of speakers at this conference, it is clear to me that this topic will be given thorough and exhaustive treatment.
It is my hope that the governments of our Federation will combine the suggestions that will come out of this conference with a well researched study on why many people especially the young are abusing drugs and non drug substances. Are there new Socio-Economic drivers instigating the disturbing spike in substance abuse and other deviant social behaviors? We must tackle these psycho- socio economic issues if we must correctly tackle the menace. Of course poor enforcement of laws relating to use of illegal drugs especially cannabis must be corrected. Many Nigerian Youths in many states of our federation smoke the Indian hemp brazenly in the open these days, leaving an impression that it is now legal to use Indian hemp.
Let me end this message by thanking the Chairman of ACPN and his team for inviting me to this Annual Conference, the first of such conferences I am attending since I was offered the privilege to be the President of PSN last November. I have noted a lot of zeal and a desire to confront our challenges head on by the leadership .As an elder, I will counsel that we mix the zeal with reasonable dose of tact and wisdom. Kindly be assured of my commitment to the resolution of many of the challenges confronting our profession. And because we are all linked- Hospital, Industrial, Academic and Community, there is so much commonality in our challenges. I wish you all a very successful and fulfilling time in Kano as we eargerly await the communique and subsequent work plan to actualize the decisions.
Thanks you so much. God bless us all
Pharm (Mazi) Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR,MON, FPSN, FNAPharm, FPCPharm, NPOM PRESIDENT, PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY OF NIGERIA