Pharmacists Tackle NMA President over Disparaging Remarks

Pharmacists under the aegis of Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) have cautioned the President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Mr. Uche Ojinmah, against denigrating the pharmacy profession for inordinate goals.

Chairman of ACPN, Mr. Adewale Oladigbolu, who made a reference to a recent press statement credited to Mr. Ojinmah, where he remarked that “some people even say they are Community Pharmacists and so they must prescribe”, said the remark was a “political tirade and an unfortunate exhibition of ignorance.’’

He said: “The attention of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) has once again been drawn to the unending political tirades directed at the profession of Pharmacy and Community Pharmacists by Mr. Uche Ojinmah, who is portrayed as the President of the NMA.’’

According to him, Ojinmah also gave the impression that everything all other health workers do, the physicians are able to do, as he claimed he studied Pharmacology “which is an aspect of Pharmacy”.

Ojinmah declared in the interview that Physicians ‘study Pharmacology as an aspect of Pharmacy’ and so inferred that Physicians know everything about Pharmacy. Pharmacology is only one of eight core areas in Pharmacy training which includes Pharmacognosy, Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Pharmaceuticals and Pharm Tech, Forensic Pharmacy, Clinical Pharmacy and Bio Pharmacy.’’

He insisted that “if we assume that physicians cover the entire blade in terms of scope and depth of Pharmacology, pharmacists are exposed to in-training, even as he queried  what happened to knowledge in the other seven areas?’’

Continuing, he posited that “as Pharmacists, we were taught Anatomy and Physiology but maturity and intellectual contentment compels us to acknowledge we remain proud and fulfilled Pharmacists.”

Oladigbolu said, “this is a misguided effort by the physicians to justify their unending quest to grab privileges, benefits and undue accolades over other health professionals in the country.’’  

“The attempt to disparage Community Pharmacists by Ojinmah confirms our age-long predilection to brand a preponderance of Nigerian Physicians as perpetually celebrating their ignorance. It is most unfortunate that the supposed leader of the medical profession in Nigeria is not familiar with the nomenclature and concept of Community Pharmacy practice which is globally recognised.”

Describing the Community Pharmacist as the unsung hero in the Nigerian health space, who apparently saves Nigeria from more significant morbidity and mortality rates through their services and interventions.

He said, “Over 65 per cent of clinical visitations traceable to malaria in Nigeria are effectively treated to the extent of almost 90 per cent in Community Pharmacies in the country. During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, it was Community Pharmacies that provided affordable management costs through wellness protocols of dispensing routine vitamins and other remedies, including appropriate diet at costs well below N2,000 to Nigerians when private hospitals charged between five million to N50 million to manage patients in their hospitals.”

Oladigbolu challenged the insinuations that Community Pharmacists are not trained to prescribe and dispense medicines against the backdrop of what he called ‘prescribing Pharmacists and dispensing Doctors’ in the country.

“In as much as we have a phenomenon of prescribing Pharmacists and dispensing Doctors which is unlawful, we hasten to put on record that attempts to deal a decisive blow on it when a Past President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) championed the establishment of a National Committee on Prescription and Dispensing Policy in 2013 was truncated by the NMA which staged a walkout at the terminal stages of the committee work because it could not achieve its agenda to maintain the status quo as it insisted on being allowed dispensing rights while Pharmacists would  cease to prescribe POMs.

“For the records, drugs are universally classified into OTCs, Pharmacist Initiated Medicines and Prescription Only Medicines (POMs). Pharmacists have a legal right to dispense OTCs and PMIs without prescriptions. And a segment of the misguided constituency of Physicians still raises hell in such circumstances. It is important to state for the umpteenth time that the biggest beneficiaries of the unlawful phenomenon of prescribing Pharmacists and dispensing Physicians are the private sector Physicians as WHO studies confirm that the drugs cost more in private hospital Pharmacies and public hospital Pharmacies.

He alleged that an average Nigerian Physician in private practice rips off the patients in his treatment plan through exploitative billings with drugs. “It is only in Nigeria, a Physician boasts of knowing everything other health professionals trained to perfect.’’

Oladigbolu claimed that the NMA mouths international best practices when it suits its perceived interests. “It actually attempted to decree in its Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) amendment bill that only Physicians could use the title of Doctor because in their ridiculous imagination, this must be the exclusive preserve of Doctors.

“Nigerian Physicians have done everything possible, including blackmailing the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) for recognising the Pharm. D programme for Nigeria. The Pharm. D curriculum has been in existence for about 60 years in the USA, one of the places we import our health values and reforms from, yet the NMA does not want skills acquisition like Consultant status or reform agenda that boosts the output of other principal stakeholders in health. We make bold to impress it on Ojinmah that Pharm. D has come to stay.’’

Oladigbolu also said, “at the recent World Congress of Pharmacists in Seville, Spain, the leadership of the International Federation of Pharmacists (FIP) put on record that at least 45 countries of the world including Nigeria had officially designated Community Pharmacies as Vaccination Centres. This is the same Community Pharmacists, a thoroughly under-exposed Ojinmah, now says ‘some people call themselves Community Pharmacists.

“It is both misnomer and shameful that people who are parents and in representative capacity of what is perceived as a noble calling throw civility over the board in their unending quest to grab privileges, benefits and undue accolades.”

He decried the declining quality in health delivery in the country which he blamed on unsatisfactory leadership.  

“The conundrum in our health system shall continue to defy solutions for as long as stakeholders including government, consumers of health and other stakeholders in the value-chain are not bold enough to curtail the many excesses of Ojinmah and his medical constituency,’’ he said.

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