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VC Urges NUC, PCN to harmonise on Pharmacy Programme

The Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde, has appealed to both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) to harmonise their thoughts on the running of Pharmacy programme in the nation’s Universities. He said the need for the NUC and PCN to be on the same page became imperative following the seeming confusion arising from conflicting directives of the two bodies.

Prof. Olatunde said this in his remarks during the Exit Briefing of a PCN delegation that recently visited the Main Campus, Ago-Iwoye. The delegation, which visited as part of its professional accreditation of the University’s Pharmacy programme, was led by the PCN Registrar, Dr Elijah Mohammed.

The delegation had made a strong case for the University to commence PharmD, a six-year degree programme also known as Doctor of Pharmacy, which is a prerequisite for licensing to practise Pharmacy profession.

Responding, the Vice-Chancellor assured that the University will continue to support Pharmacy which he described as one of the flagship programmes of the institution. He noted that under his leadership, the University had made enormous investments in terms of massive purchase of equipment and staff recruitment to enhance the status of Pharmacy programme in the University.

He also assured the visiting team that the University Management would do everything possible and collaborate with the PCN to assist graduate pharmacists in securing accredited placements for their compulsory one-year internship programme, which provides participants with practical experience in Pharmacy.

The PCN Team in a group photograph with the University Management

Prof. Olatunde said, “I want to thank you most sincerely for your visit and I can assure you that we will continue to support that programme. Pharmacy is one of our flagship programmes, that’s why we have made investment into the programme which has never been done since the inception of this University.”

“We have massively purchased equipment and continued to employ staff for them and we will never relent because the whole essence of University education is for students to have valuable knowledge.”

On the issue of PharmD programme, the Vice-Chancellor suggested that it should be sorted out between the NUC and PCN. He stressed the need for the two bodies to reach a consensus on grey areas in order to have “a clear perception” on how to proceed with the programme.

He explained that a situation where the NUC approved Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) as the first degree for Pharmacy students in Nigeria and the PCN recommended Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree as minimum educational qualification for practitioners would continue to generate furore.

His words: “The issue of the PharmD programme is something that the professional body needs to handle with the National Universities Commission. There is really no clear cut decisions on that. When you go to NUC, they will tell us it’s not yet time and that they are still studying it.

We know that a number of Universities are doing PharmD programme. We are willing to do it as long as we won’t have any problem with the National Universities Commission. There are a number of things some Universities are doing that are not yet the directive of the National Universities Commission and we don’t want to be listed among.”

“I’m really not here to do things but to improve the way we do things and ensure we have graduates that can compete very well in national and international environments. So, I would plead that some of the few grey areas between the National Universities Commission and the professional body could be ironed out, so that we can have a clear perception of how we can do it.”

Prof. Olatunde, who pointed out that the University would not want to lose accreditation on both sides, restated the commitment of the institution towards efforts to help place its students in a better stead.

During an earlier courtesy visit to his office before the PCN team proceeded to the Sagamu Campus for its assignment, the Vice-Chancellor had maintained that the University was not averse to PharmD. However, he hinged the stance of OOU about the Pharmacy programme on the directive of NUC.

“We’ve received the memo from the NUC and the content of it is very clear; they encouraged us to do PharmD but it’s not a migration of BPharm to PharmD,” Prof. Olatunde clarified.

He added, “PharmD is a separate programme on its own and there is no way University would have two programmes running simultaneously. That’s why I’m saying that the professional body and the regulatory body, which is the NUC, need to harmonise their thoughts because if they say that PharmD is a separate programme and not a migration of BPharm to PharmD, then it shows clearly that if I want to start PharmD, I would still invite the NUC for resource visit.”

“So, the issue is that we are not averse to PharmD but we also need to work it out. When we saw the memo from NUC saying that PharmD is a different programme on its own and BPharm is not cancelled, that’s why I said the two bodies need to harmonise their thoughts. If NUC does not give me accreditation, I cannot even admit any student there because it’s not going to be listed in JAMB. If PCN would not register my students after graduation, what would be the essence of having that programme? So, either way, we are at the receiving end because NUC would give directive, the professional body would also give directive,” he exasperated.

Earlier in his remarks, the PCN Registrar, Dr Elijah Mohammed, explained that the philosophy of Pharmacy education and practice had changed all over the world to check the growing abuse in the pharmaceutical sector. He said Nigeria cannot be left out in the emerging changes. Mohammed, who revealed that 2022/2023 academic session would be the deadline for indexing students in PharmD, solicited the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure the success of the programme.

He said, “You find out that because of the product-focused activity that has become important, everybody thinks he or she can handle drugs. And that has really created a lot of problems within the health sector: issue of drug abuse and misuse. Individuals playing in the pharmaceutical stage are only focusing on drug product without consequential effects of these drugs on the patients.”

“So, the new training now is that whatever you are doing from the research to production, distribution, wholesale to retail, what impact is our business going to have on the patients? And that has changed the philosophy of Pharmacy education and practice all over the world and Nigeria cannot be left out. That is why we are pleading that the issue of PharmD, which the NUC has approved, should be given due consideration.”

Other Principal Officers in attendance included the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration, Prof. Charles Adekoya; the University Registrar, Mr Femi Ogunwomoju; Librarian, Dr Adebambo Oduwole; and Bursar, Mr Semiu Makinde.

While the NUC is charged with granting approval for all academic programmes run in Nigerian Universities and ensuring quality assurance, the PCN is a statutory organ saddled with the responsibility of regulating and controlling Pharmacy education, practice and training in all aspects and ramifications.

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