I was talking with a friend of mine who practises pharmacy in the east and she told me that the Enugu townspeople are not exactly drug friendly, and so her company has to constantly reorientate their minds about the importance of the use of good quality drugs. She also pointed out the fact that the doctors in hospitals do not help matters, as they might prescribe cheaper, lower quality drugs whose rate of absorption is poor to earn a quick buck on the side. This conversation provoked a lot of questions in me. Thus I took on the task of investigating other parts of the country to see whether the same also obtains. This interview also contains some self help tips about drugs and some fun facts.
Meet Charles Uwa. Omoregha, who inter alia has a Pharmacy practice in Calabar, Cross River State, a degree in pharmacy from the University of Benin (1996), internship experience with Mopson Pharmaceuticals and professional experience as a pharmacist at the Federal Medical Centre Yola. He is also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Calabar, Institute of Public Policy & Administration.
On his take on the health sector in his region of practice, contrasting it with Nigeria as a whole, especially with regard to the average Nigerian’s response to the purchase and use of drugs as opposed to local herbs, he answers:
‘The health sector in Cross River State is not as developed as in Western Nigeria. For example, there are very few sub-specialty doctors, less than 5 dental surgeons in Calabar, very few centres for proper pharmaceutical care. Very low disposable income makes quality health care far from affordable.’
On how to tell a very good drug from a fake one, and to know which brand of drugs to purchase, he explains that
‘Only a trained and experienced person like a practising pharmacist can. If you try going by the packaging, you will be shocked to find that the better packaged one is the fake.’
On the top 5 must have drugs to have at home he says:
‘1. Analgesics like paracetamol
2. Bandages and medicines for treating wounds
3. Oral rehydration salt
4. Flu tabs like Chlorpheniramine (e.g. PIRITON)
5. Antacid tabs like Gestid’
I ask whether drugs are ever toxic and what one does when they realise they have ingested a toxic or expired drug,
‘All drugs are poisons; ever toxic. It is just that some are more potent poisons than others. Even paracetamol taken in high doses can damage the liver.’
More critically, on his opinion on the role that doctors play in ensuring that their patients use the right drugs, he suggests:
‘Doctors need to ensure that their diagnosis is right and the right drugs are prescribed and obtained from reputable pharmacies where the Rx signage for professional practice is on display.’
On his opinion on a policy that the government should implement to ensure the effective disbursement of highly effective drugs in the major cities in Lagos, as well as in small towns, he says,
‘The Government should take the arrest and closure of quack medicine stores seriously’
With regard to self help things to do when a person has ingested a bad drug, he helpfully offers:
‘1. Contact your pharmacist or doctor immediately!’
On the effectiveness of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as well as contributory state health schemes in Nigeria today, he candidly answers:
‘For now penetration is poor and same with service quality. I hope to see it improve’
I finally ask him to dazzle our readers with 5 fun facts about drugs, and he answers happily:
‘1. The drug that heals you can also kill you, so respect it.
2. The drug that healed your brother may not help you, with same medical problem.
3. Two different drugs taken together can end up ‘fighting themselves’ inside the consumer and kill the person.
4. Sometimes, a drug is prescribed for you because of the ‘undesired’ effect it produces in the body.
5. Jesus is probably the first to make antibiotics when he took sand to cure the blind man. Antibiotics are gotten from sand. So, Christ was a Pharmacist’.
What is your take on pharmaceutical health policies in Nigeria?
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