The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pharm (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa accompanied by the Deputy President North, Pharm Munir Elelu paid a courtesy visit to the Deputy Senate President, Sen Ovie Augustine Omo-Agege on the 15th of October 2020. In attendance were the Chief of Staff of the Deputy Senate President, Pharm Otive Ibuzor, and other delegates. Very salient issues affecting Pharmacists and Pharmacy practice were extensively discussed and good commitments were obtained from the leadership of the Senate.
Below is the address of the PSN President during the visit:
On behalf of the National Executive Committee, Council, and entire membership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria I want to congratulate the federal government of Nigeria of which you are a principal officer, for a wonderful job they have done in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted the biggest, the greatest and the strongest. This pandemic has revealed that if Nigeria sets its heart on something as a nation, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
We have requested your audience to present a couple of issues that are adversely affecting the Pharmaceutical space for your intervention even though we have been invited by the Senate Committee on Health. The first is the Pharmaceutical Industry Debt Burden. Deputy President Sir, we want to call for your intervention as a matter of urgency the huge receivable burden the pharmaceutical industry is under. We did an estimate of the debt owed to the pharmaceutical industry by federal and state institutions, with some debts lasting for 2 – 3 years. As of 31st March 2020, we have N3,062,832,507.31 as the debt owed by various institutions from the data received from 30 pharmaceutical companies. This huge debt burden is preventing companies from increasing their capacity.
The second is an issue of great distaste to our noble profession. On the 21st of July 2020, a bill for an act to establish the Pharmaceutical Technologists and Pharmacy Technicians Regulatory Council of Nigeria passed the third reading in the lower chamber of the National Assembly. This is contrary to expectations after a public hearing that was organized on the 11th of December 2018 by the House Committee on Health Institutions. As a professional body and active players in the health sector, we strongly disapprove the passage of this bill by the National House of Assembly and advise that the institution focus its attention to the Pharmacy Council Bill. There is no country in the world where such a regulatory body exists; allowing such a bill to be passed into law would only further unsettle the health sector that is already troubled by the indecorous disposition of some health workers.
The third issue already mentioned is the Pharmacy Council Bill. This bill was written in 2010 after so many months of careful contributions to put together the draft, this bill is yet to see the light of day. This bill if passed will help in no small way transform pharmacy practice in Nigeria, as it has comprehensively brought all participants and bodies involved in drug distribution under the regulatory ambit of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) which is the regulatory body of the pharmacy profession. Everyone involved in pharmacy practice, including those in the open drug markets, will be regulated by the PCN. The nation is currently faced with a national health security risk posed, first by depending on the importation of essential drugs that can be readily produced in the country if the pharmaceutical industry is well equipped and then the control of drugs by people who have no business with it. The Pharmacy bill will help arrest the current trend in which drugs are made available through illegal and unregistered outlets. The PCN bill is all-encompassing and deals with loopholes in the existing law and will help guarantee public health since it provides adequate sanctions in the event of a breach of any of its provisions. This bill in summary aims to protect the public health as well as promoting the image of the profession as obtainable in other developed countries as well as some African countries.
Finally, it is the funding of government parastatals, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN). The health sector rides on the back of research and innovation and our deficiency in this regard was exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These agencies are the life wire of the health of this nation yet they can hardly keep themselves alive as they are grossly underfunded and constantly run out of working capital. They are research and regulatory organizations that are yet to scratch the surface of their potentials. NAFDAC and PCN as agencies are faced with poor budget allocation which has resulted to them trying to raise funds for themselves, and who bears the burnt? The major players in the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers, and community pharmacists. NIPRD as a research institute has been neglected despite its potential to bring fortunes to the government and Nigerians.
- Kindly interfere in helping federal institutions meet their obligations by paying off their debt to the Pharmaceutical Industry to help them improve our current capacity
- The Senate should adopt what is obtainable in other climes and outrightly drop the bill. Rather let the Senate focus on the Pharmacy Council Bill. The bill for an act to establish the Pharmaceutical Technologists and Pharmacy Technicians Regulatory Council of Nigeria is only duplicating the functions of an already existing government agency and adopting global best practices.
- The Pharmacy Council Bill has lingered far too long. The health of Nigerians will be greatly improved hence we urge the Senate to pass the bill and advise the President to pass this bill into law for the betterment of Nigerians.
- Government agencies can do better if properly funded. We pled with the government to improve the funds made available to NIPRD, NAFDAC, and the PCN so as to enable them to fulfill their original purpose and secure an improved health status of Nigerians.
Thank you so much for the attention and God bless you
Pharm (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa OFR, MON, NPOM, FPSN, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria