By Chioma Obinna
IN the wake of the current shortage of foreign exchange in the country, experts have observed that most important drugs in the country are gradually going into extinction while prices of available ones have sky-rocketed out of the reach of Nigerians.
The experts under the auspices of Association of Community Pharmacists, ACPN, Lagos State branch, said persistence of the problem may endanger the health of Nigerians. They also called on the Federal government to activate the Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund, PIF, to boost local production of medicines.
Making these revelations during the ACPN Day held in Lagos, Chairman of the Lagos ACPN, Pharm.Biola Paul-Ozieh, noted that the high foreign exchange rate and the consequent high cost of purchase and importation of medicines were discouraging importers as they are unable to get their funds back when they sell their products in the country.
“The situation has also caused the increase in prices of products that have been imported. It is currently affecting the affordability of medicines among the ordinary Nigerians who pay-out-of-pocket for their healthcare. For us to be able to have Universal Health Coverage, we must have affordable medicine.”
Further, Paul – Ozieh said: “The National Drug Policy also indicate that we must be able to make our medicines locally. If today in Nigeria, 80 percent of the drugs we use are made locally, the drugs will be more affordable to the populace.”
On the theme tagged, “Advancing Community Pharmacist Leadership Roles Through Health Education” she explained that the PIF would serve as a revolving fund for drug manufacturers who need capital to build local manufacturing plants, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imported drugs.
“Government needs to encourage local manufacturers and put petrochemical industries in place, so that raw materials will be available and manufactures can source their raw materials locally. That way, we will be self-sufficient in terms of drugs production and administration in the country.”
She stressed the need for Nigerians to know the right places to access medicines, adding that any pharmacy that does not have the green cross sign should not be patronised. She said: “Do not go to any pharmacy without the sign, because there is no guarantee that their drugs are authentic,” adding that, “buying drugs from quacks and unprofessionals could cause more harm to your body.”
A former Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Anthony Oyewole, cautioned Nigerians to stop patronising illegal pharmacies and drug store operators, especially those in the cities. Oyewole advised that all medicines should be purchased from government-approved pharmacies, adding that pharmacists in these drug stores could be held responsible in case of adverse drug reactions.
“A patient can react to drugs given on prescription, not to talk of when given by a quack who does not know what he/she is selling. That is why one must be careful. “Patronise registered pharmacies, as they have in-house experts who will ask you questions and tell you what to do so that thedrug does not become a poison.”