U la Abunaw, Pharmacist / Public Health Consultant and owner of the reputable RAPHA Pharmacy located opposite Limbe’s Botanic garden with slogan ‘…much more than medicines’ has said counterfeit and substandard medicines are a big problem in Cameroon which must be eliminated for a safe health care system. This was during an exclusive interview she granted The SUN’s NOELA EBOB BISONG in the company of UB JMC interns Alexia ULE and Lena MEYA, on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at her office, ahead of the celebration of the 2019 World Pharmacy Day on September 25. While detailing on the upcoming celebration, the seasoned pharmacist equally touched on other issues like roadside drugs as well drug abuse. It’s a must read!
What is the World Pharmacists Day all about?
The World Pharmacists day is set aside to create awareness on who pharmacists are and the role they play, so every 25th of September is being set aside to also tell the pharmacists who they are and their role in health care system.
The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Safe and effective medicines for all’, can you throw more light on it?
Counterfeit and substandard medicines are a big problem especially in the developing countries. Not only do we have diseases but we are battling the ineffectiveness of medicines to treat these diseases. For substandard medicine, this is medicine which has less of its ingredients which it is supposed to have; so the theme ‘safe and effective medicine for all’ is to raise awareness of these substandard and counterfeit medicines to our population to know where and how to get the right medicines.
Who is responsible for these substandard and counterfeit medicines?
The actors of these medicines include everybody; it starts from the government who has to put in place a regulatory body. At the level of Cameroon, we have the ministry of public health that is responsible for checking medicines which are registered and sold in Cameroon. We also have the Customs service which takes care of the borders, where there must be that awareness of whatever is going out and coming into the country. At the level of the general population, our people must be sensitised and empowered not to engage in such medicines.
Looking at the issues of medication error, who is responsible for this? Is it a patient or the health personnel?
Medication error is the case where you can be given a wrong medicine and this more for the health professionals.
Is medication error a result of human error, or because we have quacks and charlatans?
In our context it is much more serious because many people are practicing medicines who are not professionals at all; people are dispensing anything without going to school, so you can imagine the risk the population is in. However, pharmacists also have medication errors, hence this year’s theme is to highlight that as professionals, and we need to be careful in what we do in order to avoid these errors.
Coming back to the celebration of World Pharmacists day, what have been the strides after 10 years of its initiation? Are pharmacists well known today?
Yes pharmacists are known because within the last 10years, Cameroon has started training pharmacists especially in Yaounde and Douala, so by training these professionals, it creates awareness, hence improved medicine use.
Are there activities for this year’s edition at the level of Limbe?
At the level of the Limbe, we will carry out free blood pressure and sugar tests at our individual levels, as well as answer any medical related questions from the public.
Has there been communication to get the public aware of this?
Yes, that is why I contacted The Sun, the next will be the radios and also it will be put on social media like Whatsapp and facebook to get many aware of the activities of September 25.
What does it take to become a member of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)?
All it takes is for you to be registered in your national association. This means that if you are a registered pharmacist in Cameroon, you can apply to become a member of the FIP.
On the issue of roadside drugs, is it a fight for the government only?
At the level of our association, we are not doing any big deal because if we do our job well, that is already sensitisation. You have to understand that, roadside medicine is not a pharmacist problem but rather a public health problem and such problems are fought by the State because the population is at risk. So at our level, we use the World Pharmacists day to sensitise the population. However, we have had a documentary done on roadside drug business but the fight is for the government because we are looking at the situation where many people are uneducated on the ill, so we must be able to have policies and strategies put in place by the ministry of health.
Drug abuse like tramadol is causing untold harm in our society. What’s your take?
Tramadol is actually used for severe pains, unfortunately it is being used today in our streets to spoil our youths because if you take it, you get addicted to it, making our youths lazy and irresponsible, making them a burden to the society.
It is a huge problem because we don’t produce this drug and do not know how it comes in to the country. This is because tramadol at the level of the pharmacy is not what it is out there. What I mean is that the highest strength of what we have in the pharmacy is 50mg, but that on the streets is 200mg, so what they are abusing is found in illegal channels.
We will like to know more about RAPHA pharmacy
RAPHA pharmacy is a community pharmacy in Limbe and a community pharmacy is that which strives to cater for its people, so the aim of RAPHA pharmacy is to ensure that the people of Limbe have good, effective and affordable medicine. I will like to insist that a place being beautiful doesn’t mean things are expensive there, as there are medicines here for FCFA 100, malaria medicines for FCFA 700 etc. RAPHA pharmacy’s aim is to make sure that the needs of our population are being taken of. There are also good body lotions, makeup, perfumes etc on sale here. The pharmacy has been in existence for 6 years and the vision is to provide quality healthcare services, that is, whatever we need should be at our doorsteps.
Who is Ula Abunaw?
I graduated from Pharmacy School in 1997 in the Ubafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and then worked for the state of Cameroon in 2012 in distributing medicines in all government hospitals in South West region. I later quit to work for myself and in addition to that, I did a Masters in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine in the UK. Currently, I do Consultancy, training of health personnel in other institutions and work for H.IV./AIDS programmes as a consultant.
A message to the public about the upcoming World Pharmacists day celebration
We invite the entire Limbe population to visit any pharmacy of their choice to have their blood pressure and blood sugar tested for free. Also, pharmacists in Limbe are here to provide as much information on their worries relating to medicine use and a final message to the youths is that Tramadol kills, they should desist from taking it.