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‘Avoid Patronising Street Medicine Vendors’

What is the difference between a pharmacist and a chemist?
A pharmacist has the professional outlook and deals with prescription before attending to customers on ethical drugs, over-the-counter drugs and first aid. Patent medicine vendors, as they are called, are not to handle ethical drugs. They are, however, allowed to administer over-the-counter drugs and minor first aid treatments. They don’t require professionalism or technicalities to do that.

How do you deal with drug hawkers?
This is a very big problem. Nigeria is the only country in the world where drugs are being handled carelessly. Drugs are potential poisons; hence they should be treated solely by professionals. Only the pharmacist is allowed to handle drugs. I don’t think an illiterate should hawk what he does not know nor understand the hazards involved. But unfortunately people patronise them. Government has to do something about this menace.

How can this anomaly be addressed?
This is not a one-man war. Everybody is a stakeholder. If there is no buyer, there won’t be a seller. The people need to be enlightened. Law enforcement agencies like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the NAFDAC have a lot to do about this. Government should make a law banning them from selling narcotics to unsuspecting people. If drugs are handled by professionals they would not abuse it.

Some herbal medicines now have NAFDAC registration numbers: what is your take on that?
All herbal medicines are supposed to be under proper scrutiny through NAFDAC registration. There are certain safety standards that are supposed to be followed before registration. There is nothing wrong in herbal drugs. Most of the drugs we use now are from herbs. The only difference between a medical herbal drug and the packaged orthodox one is the standardisation. In this case, dosage and the level of safety should be ascertained.

What do you say about professional pharmacists who engage in shoddy deals to make money?
Real professionals don’t do shoddy deals. We have regulatory bodies, and a pharmacist is a man of honour. No registered pharmacist will go into shoddy deals. Unfortunately, non-professionals know nothing about what they are handling. Some cannot even pronounce the names of drugs correctly. But they sell the drugs because government does not have punitive measures against them.

Some pharmaceutical companies, such as Zaria Pharmaceutical Industry (ZARINJECT), have stopped production; what are the challenges you face?
Electricity is a devil militating against industries in this country. Funding is another problem. The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) is supposed to front for this, but we only see them on the newspapers and they set up rules that will confuse you.
The case of ZARINJECT is more of power and cost of production. It is sad for this country.

It is widely believed that genuine drugs are not produced in Nigeria; what is your opinion on that?
It is not true. There are reputable pharmaceutical industries in the country.

Are you not bothered that a lot of Nigerians are trained here, but they end up practising abroad?

There is no place like home. I will not want to be treated like an alien or a second-class citizen. The government should create an enabling environment for Nigerian pharmacists.

What is the effect of drug abuse and addiction in Nigeria?
It is dangerous to the society. Why should you use your hard earned money to destroy yourself.

Have you ever had a bad encounter with drug addicts and other customers?
Yes. One man nearly slapped me because I refused to sell some un-prescribed drugs to him. He went and bought the drugs elsewhere and came back with two bottles. He put one in his pocket and emptied one of the contents in one full gulp. I picked courage and told him that the people who sold the drug to him were helping to destroy him.

It is sad that sensitisation on drug addiction is very low. It is common knowledge that this addiction has hazardous effects on the people’s health, just as it leads to social vices such as armed robbery, rape, restiveness.

What motivated you into studying pharmacy?
Before I knew the meaning of pharmacy, I used to write “pharmacist’’ at the back of my notebook. That was in the secondary school days. I loved the name pharmacy so much that I devoted most of my time to my studies. This was coupled with the profession of my foster mother who was a nurse. I became a pharmacist to serve humanity.

Did you encounter problems as a married woman?
In life, everything is based on determination. I was determined, and my family supported me. Studying pharmacy is not an easy thing, especially if one has the penchant for laziness or social life.

What is your advice to those who want to be pharmacists?
It is a course that won’t give you time for leisure. It is not for lazy people. 24 hours is too small for you, especially if you don’t plan well. The goodwill to study must be there.

Who were your lecturers?
The current vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria Professor Abdullahi Mustapha taught Medicinal Chemistry, Professors Ilyas and Bhatiya were Indians. MG Garba, the present Dean, taught me Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Are you a member of any professional body?
I am a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. Currently, I am the chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists, Kaduna State Branch. I am also a member of the Association of Lady Pharmacists, Kaduna.

Column written by pharm amaniya


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