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‘African countries must regulate online pharmacies to curb drug abuse, misuse’

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Yusuff Moshood

The African Pharmaceutical Forum, the fifth regional forum of the International Pharmaceutical Federation has called on regulators in Africa to enact laws to guide the practice of internet-based pharmacy in the continent.

According to the APF, countries across the continent must begin to regulate and control internet-based pharmacy services to prevent as well as curb drug abuse and misuse.

The APF warned that the absence of clear laws and regulations on online medicine sales and marketing poses a big risk to the continent.

Making the call at the 2021 Hybrid Regional Workshop of the African Pharmaceutical Forum, held in Lagos, the APF President, Dr. Prosper Hiag flayed the indiscriminate online advertisement and sale of both over the counter and prescription medicines, noting that drug regulatory authorities in the continent should step up the enforcement of necessary laws on advertisement and sales of medicines. 

Speaking further at the workshop themed: ‘Technological Innovations for Pharmacy in Africa amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic’, Dr. Hiag stated that the viral pandemic has led to an increase in the use of technological innovations in the pharmaceutical sector.

He added that the pandemic has also provided African countries the opportunity to develop local information technology-driven solutions that can help them reach and serve patients better.

Presenting his keynote address at the workshop, Dr. John Serbe Marfo of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana urged pharmacists to be more proactive in using technological innovation to improve pharmaceutical services as they have done during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pharmacists, he said, must also embrace the lessons learnt during the pandemic, especially in the area of digital knowledge, noting that the survival of pharmacists and pharmacies depends largely on how pharmacy practitioners leverage technology for growth.

He noted that the use of some digital apps aided communication of pharmacists with clients tremendously in the heat of the COVID-19 lockdown when physical meetings were restricted, noting that some of the apps could be appropriately adapted and adopted by practitioners. 

He stressed the need for the adoption of technological innovations in the logistics and supply chain of medicines, noting that it would help address the problem of uncoordinated drug distribution channels in many African countries.

Dr. Marfo also urged the African Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agencies and Academic Institutions to ensure that the training of pharmacy students and practitioners is in tandem with current and appropriate technological innovations. 

National governments in the continent, he added should also recognise community pharmacies as vaccine administration centres to increase vaccination coverage in Africa.

He stated further that community pharmacists are strategically positioned and trusted in the community for their role in providing access to medicines, noting that the practitioners equally provide medication counseling, health education, and advert event reporting and monitoring among others.

He also called for a common pharmacy regulatory body for the African continent, noting that, it could help reduce bureaucracy in decision making about medicines in the continent.

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