LAGOS – N igerians are daily poisoned by wrongful use of medicines and other consumable substances. Yet, the country has no drug information centre that is independent to provide balanced guidelines in the use of medicines.
Expressing concerns over this situation, Pharm. Sam Ohuabunwa, President, President Pharmaceutical Society Of Nigeria (PSN) said over the years, Nigeria has been rated poor in nearly all health indices.
For instance, Ohuabunwa said the country has one of the lowest in terms of life expectancy, high rate of suicide and the high menace of drug misuse and abuse.
Ohuabunwa said while drug abuse may be prevalent in the country, poisoning by wrongful use of medicines and other consumable substances is now a common thing in the country.
The industrial pharmacist said; “The modulation of internal chemical balance is as a result of what we consume especially, things that will affect the molecules in the body. Many of them are called medicines, some are called drugs and substances and these substances can help you, they can also hurt you and many people are being hurt.
The PSN President said a study was conducted recently which revealed that so much morbidity has been caused by the misuse of drugs and drug abuse.
In view of this, he said, “PSN was persuaded to set up the National Drug and Poisons Information Centre, a centre for emergency response that would operate as a national workplace 24/7 toll free call centre with designated phone lines across each state in the country, for information on drugs to prevent epidemic and respond to suicide attempts.
“It would also ensure survival of victims exposed to untoward effects of drugs, substance of abuse and poison injuries through counselling, referral as well as mobilisation of appropriate response team,” he said.
The PSN boss spoke during the unveiling of the National Drug and Poison Information, Emergency Response and Research Centre in Lagos, lamented; “Today, there is no drug information centre that is independent. If you call my pharmaceutical company to ask for information, I may give you positive information about my drugs, but if you call an independent drug centre, they will give you the information unbiased.
The industrial pharmacist noted; “The information centre will be helpful to healthcare practitioners and Nigerians at large, whereby they can call on phone from any part of the country to be able to make a request or get counsel.
“Many Physicians and other healthcare professionals have no single stop, where they can obtain independent and accurate information on old and particularly new drug moieties. We all know also that the level of research in Nigeria is very low and individual companies are unable currently to undertake meaningful research, especially on health issues.
“We also know that our universities and public research centers are so chronically underfunded that many cannot pay salaries regularly.
He said; “It is to fill this gap that the PSN under my leadership has decided to set up a national drug and poisons Information, emergency and response centre, a centre that is largely private support to governmental actions in these areas.
To provide a centre that responds to cases of suicide attempts, rehabilitation of drug addicts and people injured by poison, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) plans to upscale the activities of the Medicine Information Centre, he explained.
According to him, the centre will be housed in our planned ultramodern Pharmacy Tower in Central Lagos. Of course the plaza will also provide administrative space for our society and additional commercial opportunity to ensure maintenance and sustainability of the building and the National Drug and Poisons information, Emergency response and Research Centre, he added.
He assured; “Pharmacists are determined to occupy our rightful place in the scheme of things in the healthcare of our nation and in the National economy. We are primed to offer maximum support to the healthcare plans of the governments of Nigeria- Federal and States.
“Today as we unveil this Pharmacy Tower project and the National Drugs and Poisons Information Centre, we reiterate our commitment to do whatever it takes to go to whatever length it will require to assure that Nigerians will continue receive the best outcomes out of their medicines and that no one suffers unduly from ignorance regarding appropriate drug usage.”
Commending government’s efforts to curb drug abuse, he said; “Government is trying, but what they are doing is like a drop of water in the ocean. It is not getting anywhere. So they need assistance, hence the reason organisations like ours need to come in.”
Pharm. (Dr) John Nwaiwu, Chairman, Project Committee, PSN, earlier disclosed this at a press conference in Lagos that it will cost the association N2.6 billion to set up the centre, while calling on government and private sector to step-in.
Nwaiwu said the focal point why the leadership of the PSN has been stimulated to bring this project to the forefront was to curtail the menace of drug and substance abuse.
He said, “We have realised that in our communities, so many things are going wrong with the issue of drugs. We hear of drug abuse, substance abuse. With a centre as envisaged by the PSN, incidence that has to do with poisoning or drugs/substance abuse can be picked up by the centre easily.
“The call centre will operate as a national work place for 24/7, so as to offer hope of survival to victims exposed to the effect of drugs, substance of drugs, poisons, through counseling, referral and when necessary, the mobilization of appropriate response team.”
Nwaiwu said, for a start, the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory will have one dedicated phone line and personnel from each state that will man the centre.
Fluency in local dialect will be key for wider coverage and effective communication, said the chairman, adding that the centre will connect all health professionals for the availability of emergency drugs, orphan drugs and consumables.
He said; “With the call centre, health financing burden on states and federal government will gradually reduce over the years as impact of mass education and enlightenment of the populace gain grounds.
“Social menace associated with drug abuse and miss-use of drugs will significantly reduce if not totally curtailed and Nigeria’s rating by the international community would improve.”
Also, the mother of the Medicine Information Centre project, Pharm. Talatu Uwa-Ebune called on the government to support the project as it will help stem the menace of drug misuse and drug abuse.
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