The Pharmacy Council of Nigeria has said it sealed no fewer than 12,740 illegal pharmacies and patent medicine stores between 2020 and 2022.
The Registrar of the council, Babashehu Ahmed, who disclosed this in a recent interview with our correspondent, noted that the commonest reasons for shutting down the shops included operating without registration with the council, followed by patent and proprietary medicine stores that operate beyond the scope of their licence, and pharmacists who do unethical things like selling controlled medicines, either without proper recording or without proper prescription.
Ahmed stated, “Last year alone, we sealed 5,130 facilities across the country. It is a very huge task. In fact, some of the vendors have taken us to court because of the activities in Akure (Ondo State) in November last year, but we are up to the task. Everything we are doing is for the good of the citizens.
“In 2020, we closed down 4,219 stores. That period was hampered by restriction of movement, as well as the issue of Covid-19, but despite that, we shut down those stores because pharmacies were exempted from the restriction.
“Some people took advantage of that window to establish illegal facilities, and with the support of the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police, who gave us security cover, we were able to go out into the field to ensure that people didn’t take advantage of the situation to establish all kinds of facilities or sell medicines that ordinarily should not be available to the public. So, we closed down 3,391 facilities in 2021.”
Speaking on how to recognise registered pharmacies to avoid patronising quacks, he stated, “It is a requirement of the law that when you enter a facility that is registered and licensed, the license of the facility should be conspicuously displayed. In addition to that, we have a concept that is being promoted through the Association of Community Pharmacists; we usually have a sign with a green cross. Once you have that, it signifies that the facility is registered.”
He further said every registered pharmacy was meant to be under the supervision of a registered and licensed pharmacist, adding, “They will have no license to display. And nothing stops you, when you walk into a pharmacy, even if you want to buy just paracetamol, to ask for the pharmacist, because a pharmacist is supposed to be on duty.
“All registered premises are supposed to be under the supervision of registered and licensed pharmacists, who would have direct and personal control of the day-to-day operations of that facility.”
The registrar said owners or managers of shops found wanting would be prosecuted.
He added, “I can give you an instance of a situation that we had in Calabar, where we had a group of individuals who called themselves certain names – pharmaceutical technologists – and were establishing facilities called pharmaceuticals. We picked them up and they were prosecuted. The court declared that what they were doing was illegal. We also had one in Abeokuta where the person was in prison for two years and was also fined. So, we have such cases.”