Vice President Joseph N. Boakai Stresses Need for Harmonization of Pharmacy Education and Drug Regulation in West Africa

Thursday, 11th March 2010
Monrovia, Liberia - Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Sr., has observed that there is disharmony in pharmacy regulation in the west African sub-region, and is calling for the harmonization of pharmacy education and regulation in the region to avert threats posed by these discrepancies.

He emphasized that pharmacy, the science or art of preparing and dispensing drugs and medicine, has been placed on the back burner due to limited education, thus posing severe threats to the health sector of the sub-region.

Vice President Boakai made the observation Wednesday at the opening of the 22nd Annual General Meeting and Scientific Symposium and 52nd Council Meeting of the West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacists (WACPC), otherwise known as the West African Pharmaceutical Federation, currently taking place at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex .

The symposium which is being held under the theme: The Harmonization of Pharmacy Education and Drug Regulation in the West African sub-region, brought together several dignitaries in the West African Health Community, including the President of WACPC, Jimmy Olu Coker; the Vice President of WACPC Professor Fola Tayo, Second Vice President of WACPC, Mr. Eric Aheto Secretary General of WACPC Dr. Azuka C.
Oparah; Osbert Newlands, assistant Secretary General of WACPC, among others.

Speaking further, Vice President Boakai said there is abundant evidence to demonstrate the harmful effects of deregulation of drugs in the sub-region, and noted that  "in this era of increasing interdependence, common border migration, globalization and the rationalization of our economic communities, the vital sectors of our respective national conditions need to be synchronized ".

He  said if the military can respond to threats posed to the sub-region by a member-state as evidenced in the ECOMOG operation in the 1990s in Liberia, then the harmonization of pharmacy education leads to coherent standards that are vital not only to development of a member-state, but the sub-region.

"The is why we in the sub-region should undertake a comprehensive pharmacy education that takes into account common standards, curricula, instructional accreditation, ethical clinical research and systematic training. These are crucial fundamental pre-requisites that ultimately promote the harmonization of pharmacy education in the West African sub-region," Vice President Boakai further emphasized.

The Liberian Vice President described the convening of the WACPC symposium in Liberia, as a giant step in complementing previous attempts by other stakeholders  to help the post-war country's health ailing sector.

The opening ceremony also witnessed the conferral of advanced degrees to several Nigerian graduates of the West African Post graduate College of Pharmacists.

Delivering the keynote address, Pharmacist Tarpowah Kear, Jr., Programme Officer of the West African Health Organization, expressed concern about the flooding of the West African sub-region with fake drugs from Asia, especially China and India.

He said this phenomenon was having severe adverse consequences on the sub-region's health sector, and cited the 1996, 1990 and 2008 cases of consumption of fake drugs in Nigeria which resulted in the deaths of scores of children.

He also alarmed that most nurses and pharmacists practicing in the West African sub-region lack the requisite qualification, and called for the putting in place of stringent regulatory mechanisms to discourage the importation of harmful drugs. He is accordingly urging governments in the sub-region to "strengthen the political commitment to harmonize and integrate West African health systems.

Also making remarks at the ceremony, Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale cited the adverse consequences the civil conflict has had on Liberia's health sector, making specific reference to the dearth of trained medical practitioners in post-war Liberia, and called on trained Nigerian health practitioners to consider coming to Liberia to help strengthen the nation's struggling health system.

The WACPC  was founded on 13th October 1976 in Monrovia, Liberia, by representatives of National Pharmaceutical Societies of the Republics of Benin, Ghana, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Francophone countries later on opted for observer status.

The symposium closes on Friday, March 12.