New law bad for Kenya, cartels at work: Pharmacy students

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New law bad for Kenya, cartels at work: Pharmacy students

In Summary

  • Led by chair Dr Cohen Andove, the students marched on the streets of Nairobi in protest on Monday, from Uhuru Park, to the Office of the President at Harambee House and then to Parliament.

  • They later presented a petition to Speaker Justin Muturi, calling for the withdrawal of Chapter 244 which they term dangerous for the entire healthcare sector.

  • The amendment seeks to register both pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians under one board, using the title ‘pharmacy practitioners’, and grade them under one job group.

  • Kephsa Organising Secretary, Dr Bona Ogendi, said the amendments are dangerous to public interest and that he will not allow unqualified individuals to import drugs into Kenya.

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By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Undergraduates at the Pharmacy Students Association of Kenya (Kephsa) have called for the withdrawal of sections of Health Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, saying it will dilute professionalism.

Led by chair Dr Cohen Andove, they marched on the streets of Nairobi in protest on Monday, from Uhuru Park, to the Office of the President at Harambee House and then to Parliament.

PETITION

They later presented a petition to Speaker Justin Muturi, calling for the withdrawal of Chapter 244, which they term dangerous for the entire health sector.

“Kephsa is disillusioned to learn of the proposed amendments to the Cap 244, which is an act of parliament, to make better provisions for the control of the profession of pharmacy and the trade in drugs and poisons," Mr Andove said.

"While we agree with certain clauses in the proposed amendment, we reject it in its entirety as it fails to address fundamental issues of the pharmacy practice."

  • Pharmacists say new law will allow quacks to import medicines
  • Board intensifies war on fake pharmacists
  • Kemsa taken to task over expired drugs
  • Rising fears over fake products

The bill was passed by the National Assembly on October 28 and is awaiting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s assent.

The amendment seeks to register both pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians under one board, using the title ‘pharmacy practitioners’, and grade them under one job group.

This essentially degrades the rigorous pharmacy course that takes five years. The diploma pharmaceutical technicians course that takes 18 months.

MALICE

The association also targeted the mover of the bill, Baringo Woman Representative Gladywell Chesire, accusing her of malice. The bill was sponsored by Majority Leader Aden Duale.

"We reject her an tics, which continue to stagnate our very young democracy, as her failure to engage all stakeholders of the pharmacy profession betrays the very basic tenets of our democracy. We are appalled by her malicious attitude and failure to recognise that our democracy can only grow if we choose to debate such contentious issues openly, with inclusivity and continuity," he said.

Dr Andove further said the country cannot afford to water down the profession through the amendment. He asked it to instead scale up the level of care offered to patients in public facilities in line with universally accepted standards.

“We are in a critical era of personalised patient care due to the very recent realisation that different patients respond differently to the same drugs. To integrate with the rest of the world in this era, the pharmacist has to be given space in the healthcare system and be equipped with modern knowledge and techniques,” he said.

“As future pharmacists, the future looks bleak to us with this amendment, despite the rigorous training we have undergone."

University students in the Pharmacy Students Association of Kenya

University students in the Pharmacy Students Association of Kenya (Kephsa) demonstrate along Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi County on November 5, 2018, against the passing of Health Amendment Bill, 2018, which seeks to group them with pharmaceutical technologists, who are diploma holders. PHOTO | AGGREY OMBOKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

"GRAVE DANGER"

Kephsa's University of Nairobi chair, Njenga Muiruri, said it is time for parliamentarians to reject the bill, which he termed "a grave danger to patients and quality care in the health sector".

Dr Muiruri criticised the bill for downgrading the qualifications of pharma cists to a diploma, saying the diploma holders do not take oaths but that pharmacists vow to protect their patients.

“The US and the UK recently revamped their pharmacy curricula to ensure medics learn for at least seven years. We cannot stand aside as people seek to mutilate our health care,” he said.

In a previous interview with the Nation, Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) President, Dr Louis Machogu, hit out at what he called “the systematic effort to lock professionals out of the regulation of the industry".

Dr Machogu noted that amendments to the law were first drafted in the 11th Parliament.

“The whole process was initiated in the 11th parliament when a politician with vast interests in the pharmaceutical sector tabled amendments that removed the legally accountable individual, who is the pharmacist, from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa)," he said.

"The same tabled amendments watered down the indepe ndent pharmacist's role in self-regulation and the upholding of public interest within the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) by reducing the number of board members from four to three."

CARTELS

The PSK president further termed the decision to remove pharmacists from the board “a move by cartels and other unscrupulous business people who want to control the pharmaceutical business”.

“What this means is that cartels are fighting back to get control of the business of selling counterfeits. They are now angling for the big four agenda of manufacture of medicines by supplying expired and poor quality medicines worth billions to Kenyans,” he said.

Kephsa Organising Secretary, Dr Bona Ogendi, said the amendments are dangerous to public interest and that he will not allow unqualified individuals to import drugs into Kenya.

“We cannot have semi-qualified individuals playing the role of board members at the PPB. It would expose the entire process to interference by cartels since it would be easier for them and other interested individuals to compromise pharmaceutical technologists, who do not fully understand the drugs they are dealing with, in a bid to import fake, substandard drugs in to the country,” said the pharmacist.

DEGREE

Dr Christine Ndanu, a pharmacy student at the University of Nairobi, with a diploma in pharmaceutical technology, told the Nation that there is no law against diploma students advancing their qualifications.

“I have gone through the diploma course and now I have joined the university. If diploma students wish to be recognised as pharmacists, let them go back to school just as I did,” said Dr Ndanu.

Dr Triza Okoth said the diploma course will not allow a certificate holder to open a chemist if global standards are enforced locally.

“Under international standards, a diploma holder is not even allowed to open a chemist let alone import drugs in to the country,” said Dr Okoth.

She said some technologists are likely to endanger the lives of patients if elevated to the level of pharmacists since they do not fully understand the drugs they issue at health facilities.

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