The Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) has cautioned the government on the perpetual harassment and blackmail of its members of the Consumers Protection Council (CPC).

According to the Association, the CPC has become overzealous to the extent of harassing and blackmailing pharmacists on prices of commodities, instead of going to the open drug markets like Idumota, Ariaria, etc., where they are sold.

In a statement, the National Chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Pharm. Samuel Adekola, said: “Unfortunately government agents in particular, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) of Nigeria, has become overzealous and view pharmacy as a point of their engagement.

“It is sad to hear that CPC continues to harass pharmacies when they know the open drug markets where the commodities are sold. Why can’t they go to Idumota market, Ariaria market, overhead market and sample the price of these products? Rather they go to the pharmacist who uses his money to go to the market to buy these products and make it available to Nigerians.

“It is worrisome that Nigerian government and its agents has continued to blackmail pharmacists. Pharmacy practice in Nigeria by law and constitution of Nigeria is regulated by Pharmacist Council of Nigeria (PCN) and NAFDAC, but today unfortunately, CPC has become so overzealous to believe they can regulate the pharmacist.

“And if they must regulate us, they should do it with common sense. They should go to where these drugs are first sold and not to pharmacies to embarrass them that customers are complaining. The embarrassment from CPC is becoming too much to bear, even when we are here rendering services to Nigerians.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 matter has brought us to a market place for blackmail by CPC. In other countries like UK, US, government make provisions of community pharmacists. They purchase masks, PPEs etc., for community pharmacies because they see them as the frontline because they are the first people the public come to when they are sick”.

 

He further added: “When the outbreak started, even before the index case in Nigeria, we observed clearly that the prices of some commodities which are very central to prevention and protection of the public like gloves and hand sanitizers, became seriously high from our suppliers and the market we buy from.

“Of course, some of us at first decided not to buy these items because we didn’t know what was responsible for the hike in prices. For instance, face masks that we usually buy for N350 for a pack of 50 even at December, suddenly got to N10,000. We didn’t know that the worse was yet to come.

“We have our standard pricing as pharmacists, the standard is 33.1 percent, but today, the practice of pharmacy is being bastardized. It is now in the hands of charlatans, people who know next to nothing about pharmacy.

“In an open drug market we visited a week ago, we bought hand sanitizers of 500ml for N4,000. There are places where they sell at higher prices than that.

“When we realized this, we made efforts on our own, looked for funds and went to meet manufacturers and told them to manufacture them for us and we began to distribute to our members.

“Today if you go out you will see that the price of hand sanitizers has drastically gone down. Even manufacturers have begun to review their prices because of our efforts”.

“We heard the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus categorizing pharmacies, supermarkets and chemists in the same category.

“How can pharmacists that are professionals – went to school for six years, with another year of internship and service year before they get to practice, be categorized as supermarket owners. Government should look inward and do the needful.

“Last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rolled out an intervention fund, and even in their guidelines, they couldn’t even mention community pharmacists.

“Nigeria should wake up. The PTF on COVID-19 should come out clear. We are professionals and primary healthcare providers not in the same category with supermarkets,” he said.

It therefore, urged the federal government to sign the Pharmacy Bill and to implement the National Drug Policy, which will correct the chaotic drug distribution in Nigeria.