Professor Emmanuel Ibezim, is a professor of pharmaceutics, and out gone dean of Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In this exclusive interview with Pharmapproach, Prof. Ibezim commended our local pharmaceutical industries on how far they have gone in making high quality drugs that are affordable to the people. He urged them to look inwards and partner with indigenous researchers to help detect and solve their manufacturing challenges as is obtainable in western countries. He also pointed out the importance of packaging on the acceptability of locally manufactured pharmaceuticals.
May we know a bit about your early life and educational background?
I grew up as a normal village boy, attended a village school but by share providence and divine assistance God has brought me this far. My childhood was very memorable. I have very loving and God-fearing parents who tried to bring me up in the fear of God.
What lead you into the pharmacy profession?
I think it’s just God and divine providence because I didn’t know much about pharmacy when I chose it. My Uncles insisted I must study medicine, in fact one of them went ahead to purchase form and asked me to fill it but I rather filled in for pharmacy. So I saw myself in pharmacy and I am happy for it.
Being in the academia has that being your passion? What actually lead to it?
Well I had two passions. One was community practice and the second was academics. After my first degree I came down for a master’s program. My intention was after the masters I would go back to my place of work as a community pharmacist, but my H.O.D then insisted that I must lecture. He went as far as securing the employment for me and called me to resume work. At that point I weighed the two options and said if I am in the academia I could still do some elements of community practice which I actually did until at a time I grew big in the academia and decided to leave the former for now.
What other areas have you ventured into apart from the academia?
I see myself as a unique and versatile Pharmacist because I work in almost all the segments. Like I used to tell people, I am here in the academia, I have practiced community Pharmacy, I did my internship in a hospital, I did my NYSC in the whole sale set up, I am currently an editor of a pharmaceutical journal which is a pharmaceutical media practice, I did some pilot production while I was in the hospital. So I have ventured into almost all areas of pharmacy.
What is your specialty in the pharmacy field and your research outcomes?
You know I am in pharmaceutics basically. Pharmaceutics is all about drug analysis, quality control, stability studies, quality assurance. These are also my areas of research interest. I am involved in assaying drugs for their quality and stabilities. I have done quality control for companies within and outside the country to find out if their products (new products or established products) meet standard or not.There was also a time we ventured into environmental impact assessment, that is, how the environment affect the health of the people because most of these companies just establish their companies without paying attention to the health of the people within the locality. We are also involved in drug interactions studies, either drug-drug interaction or drug-food interactions. These are studies we have been involved in. So if any company is interested in knowing the quality of their products whether new or old, we are ready to do it for them.
Is there any synergy between the academia and the local industries?
From my visits and understudying of companies in other countries, I observed serious alliance between those companies and their research establishments. Companies bring out huge sums of money and say “this is what I want can you deliver” and you see people working frantically because the money, the resources and support are there. But that is grossly lacking here.
Our local companies are not interested. They import almost everything you can think about so why would they need our inputs despite the fact that we have a lot of research outputs. People are researching every year. We have up to three hundred students graduating every year and each of these students have a research topic that can be developed into a convenient pharmaceutical entity but at the end of the day their project works end up in the faculty book shelves. It is not supposed to be like that. That is why I encourage your initiative. If you can drive it without relenting it is important to let these companies know what we can offer. We have tried to blow our trumpet but nobody is listening.
In fact I have tried to look around and I observed that any where Nigerians come in seriously they excel. If you look at the drugs manufactured in Nigerian by our local industries, they are superior and with good quality. Many other areas, Nigerian products are superb. I believe that if our local companies and the government can invest in the Nigeria research institutes, Nigerian products can be better. If the government can remove some of the tariffs and duties levied on local products, the local companies will be encouraged to look inwards instead of importing everything. We can be self sufficient in raw materials like drug excipients.
It is high time we started being proud of what is ours. Like every other areas, the usual Nigerian factors and problems are there. Those who have ventured into manufacturing, I praise them because they have weathered through a lot of storms and are still surviving. Juhel, Emzor and others have all it takes to manufacture any brand of product. Our local manufacturing companies are doing their best despite limited resources.
How do you think our local pharmaceutical industries can improve their local products?
The way you package yourself determines how people access and accept you. Packaging is very important. The way you package your materials determines their acceptability. Our local industries are coming up and are trying to keep to standard, even though there are still some miscreants.
Could you tell us how these companies can partner with you to improve their company?
By way of consultancy, the local companies can invite us to come and help detect and solve their manufacturing challenges rather than trying to solve every problem by themselves. It does not work that way. Well, I believe in God and the new birth that one gets when one identifies with Christ. I also believe in God leading me in everything I do. The little things I was able to achieve when I was the dean of the faculty were by God’s grace. I do not crack my head over what I know I cannot get. I also believe in hard work and diligence. I believe in doing today the things that are meant for today rather than procrastinating.
How was your experience as the past dean of the faculty?
It was hectic, a lot of sacrifices including traveling to the USA for up to three times just to make sure we connect with our alumni over there. The expenses were majorly borne by me. I believe in the principle of transparency. My happiness is that at the end of these sacrifices, we were able to achieve much.
What is your advice to pharmacists and pharmacy students?
Define what you want and pursue it with all zeal. A completely fulfilled man is a man that has a right standing with God, is enjoying a robust family relationship and is doing well in his career. It is like a tripod, if one of them is missing you are in trouble. Avoid the get-rich-quick syndrome. Let things come at God’s own time because He knows the best time for you.