‘Only pharmacists can be appointed as NAFDAC’s boss’
PCN has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate, control practice in Nigeria
Nigerians are waiting for becomes the next DG of NAFDAC. The appointment of the DG of NAFDAC generated some controversies in the past especially when a non-pharmacist was appointed in the immediate past dispensation. How do we avoid such in the unfolding context of a vacancy at NAFDAC?
The major condition precedent in the build up to the appointment of the DG of NAFDAC remains the proviso in Section 9(1) of the enabling act which states inter-alia “there shall be appointed for the agency by the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces on the recommendation of the Minister, a Director General who shall be a person with good knowledge of pharmacy, food and drugs.”
Fundamentally it is only a registered pharmacist who is a practitioner of pharmacy that can have a good knowledge of the pharmacy profession and the various dimensions of the practice. This position of the enabling Act was subjected to appraisals by the Federal Ministry of Justice in the year 2001 prior to the appointment of late Prof. Dora Akunyili, the second DG of NAFDAC.
The undercurrents of the appointment of a Director General for NAFDAC in 2009 suggested that the appointee and beneficiary was an expert in pharmacology, which is only one of the eight specialty areas in the pharmacy profession. This logically cannot make anybody have a good knowledge of pharmacy. I must however, continue to document for posterity that Dr. Paul Orhii worked very well with the immediate predecessors with minimum stress. He had great respect for the relationship and we shall continue to remember him for this value amongst other sterling qualities.
I hasten to add that expertise in drug and food matters is also exclusive to a registered pharmacist by virtue of his training. This is why pharmacists in tandem with global best practice are described as experts in drugs.
It is also apt to add that in terms of the regulatory processes in a core regulatory agency like NAFDAC, only a pharmacist has a jurisdiction as a regulatory officer in all the core mandate areas of pharmacy, food and drugs.
By virtue of Section 5 and 6 of PPA Cap 535 LFN 1990, only a pharmacist can be appointed a pharmaceutical inspector to regulate pharmacy practice, while by virtue of the Food and Drugs Act cap 150 LFN 1990 (as amended) pharmacists can be appointed as Food and Drug Inspectors to fulfill the totality of the NAFDAC mandate.
It is important to stress that we respect all stakeholders in health and in particular, those at NAFDAC. There might be administrative dimensions to the job of the DG, which may handle, so we do not doubt their competence. The PSN is only saying that the reality of the condition precedent in the recognizable statute (Section 9.1 of the NAFDAC Act) is structured in a way that only pharmacists meet the required criteria.
The other critical dimension is the utmost need to spread privileges accruable in the health sector to all the requisite players. We believe that the Federal Government needs to fill all existing slots with pool of qualified health professionals in the relevant areas. Let me dare advise the Federal Government that it could calm and smooth frayed nerves by designating the next pharmacist – DG/CEO of NAFDAC as a Special Adviser on Health in view of the polyglot skills our pool of well-endowed pharmacists can bring on the table. Again, I ask for the support of all health workers in supporting the emergence of a registered pharmacist for the job of DG NAFDAC not necessarily because we say we are the only qualified personnel but only because it is the best way to work in tandem with the relevant statute at this time.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria remains an undisputable ally of the Federal Government in meeting its goals and objectives of good health to the citizenry. We believe albeit strongly that these goals and objectives must be hinged on lawful appointments in all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to facilitate positive outcomes for consumers of health in our nation.
There have been clashes between the government of the day and PSN and Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) and indeed other pharmaceutical groups over who regulates the sales of drugs and the practice. Oftentimes other government agencies attempt to regulate pharmacy practice through subtle manipulations or regulations. Why has this persisted and is there a way forward?
As healthcare professionals, pharmacists play an important role in improving access to healthcare and in closing the gap between the potential benefits of medicines and the actual value realized.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has received entreaties from its members on the developments with regards to your question periodically. We have also been inundated with reports from our colleagues who practice in the community and industrial settings that some designated consultants, agents and operatives of some Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been harassing them on the need to remit funds to them in their capacities as agents of these organisations.
There is no doubt that this development is worrisome in view of the fact that the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) is the only body authorized by law in Nigeria to regulate the registration and practice of pharmacy and pharmacists.
Thus, there is no doubt that PCN has the authority and is saddled with the responsibility to register pharmacists and their business premises in Nigeria, whether such premises is for the manufacture, sale or dispensing of drugs and medicine.
A review of the demand letter by the agents of MDAs and some state governments classifies pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies with merchandising or general entrepreneurial endeavours.
Our irrebuttable position is that it is only the PCN that has exclusive jurisdiction and powers to regulate and control the practice of pharmacy and pharmacists in Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, existing laws and norms in the country make it imperative that pharmacies are health facilities, that is the National Health Act 2015. Under the ideal, pharmacies are also the first port of call/visitation for clients who seek interventions in healthcare.
The MDAs and State Government agenda of attempting to lump health facilities with commercial centres in a bid to generate revenue outrightly negates and jeopardizes the goals of the National Health Policy to ensure that citizens Nigeria have unhindered access to good health care which must also be affordable and available at all times.
We respectfully implore all MDAs and State Government to take cognizance of the reality that pharmacy is a profession regulated by an Act of Parliament. In fact, drug matter is on the Exclusive List by virtue of being listed as Item 21 under Part I in the 2nd schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
This is to ensure strict control by the Federal Government and its strategic components.
What will you do to promote harmony in the health sector as you tinker with sectorial goals in pharmacy practice in Nigeria?
As experts in medicines, pharmacists have always been known as an accessible and trusted source of advice and treatment. Our role in the health care delivery is indispensable. Like President John F. Kennedy rightly asserted, “The Pharmacist is an indispensable link in the chain of national health protection and promotion. If we did not have the pharmacist, it would be necessary to invent him”. Today, our contribution to healthcare is developing in new ways to support patients in their use of medicines and as part of the clinical decision-making across the range of ailments. This is the major reason why the PSN continues to champion the dire need for a consultancy cadre in public service pharmacy practice.
Professions exist to serve society, therefore, our mission as pharmacists must address the needs of society, our duty is to work and ensure that the added value we bring to healthcare and our potentials are taken into account and respected by policy makers and other health professionals. We note here that there is a lot of competition, confrontation and distrust in the health sector.
This situation must give way for collaboration, consultation, cooperation in the interest of the health consuming public. We must open our hearts and minds to allow the team concept to rule our worlds in healthcare delivery. There is no doubt that the cost of fighting against disease and preserving health will continue to increase in spite of constant control and intervention.
There are manifold reasons and benefits for wishing to create a genuine cooperation between pharmacists and other healthcare providers. Pharmacists will therefore provide leadership to ensure unity among all the stakeholders in healthcare delivery.
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