Retail Pharmacy (also known as Community Pharmacy) practice is a critical arm of healthcare in any country and is usually the first point of contact with the healthcare system. It is usually the first point of health counseling and/or referral for patients when they experience initial feelings of infirmity or unwellness, for 2 main reasons:
Proximity – Retail Pharmacies are usually ubiquitous within cities and could be the closest healthcare facility in rural areas.
Healthcare affordability – In Nigeria, and of course to a very large extent in Sub-Sahara Africa, majority of patients pay out of pocket for healthcare expenses. These expenses ramp up as soon as one has to get to the hospitals, so a typical citizen that is uninsured will prefer to see a community pharmacist first to minimize expenses.
Other services rendered to patients/customers include therapeutic drug monitoring, prescription filling, recommendation of non-Prescription Medicines, otherwise known as Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines, patients’ disease education, provision of drug information services to other healthcare practitioners, preparation of extemporaneous mixtures, etc.
The Retail Pharmacy practice, on the other hand, is also a business that ranges from Small to Medium and sometimes Large in size. This business is viable when it is well set up and contributes to the economy of the country through the payment of taxes and providing employment for different categories of employees, including Pharmacists, Sales Assistants, Inventory/Procurement Managers, Accountants, Business Managers, etc.
Highlighted below are some of the steps that can be taken to increase the chances of success when starting a retail pharmacy in Nigeria.
1. Start with a Vision for the Retail Pharmacy business
Your vision is a futuristic state where you expect your business to be. It is usually long-term which can be as short as 5 years or as much as 10 years or more. It is as simple as defining it as your destination. Where do you see your business in the future? What will be a Unique Value Proposition that will differentiate you from other businesses?
With a clear vision, you can then think of your mission which is more or less what you will focus on doing, to get there. Check out the video below – by Pharm. Bunmi Olugbeja of Primeah Pharmacy – for an example of how to differentiate your retail pharmacy practice.
Pharm. Bunmi Olugbeja of Primeah Pharmacy on Creating a Unique Differentiator for your Pharmacy Business
2. Register your business with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)
Barring unforeseen circumstances, you can now register your business in Nigeria in less than a month through the Corporate Affairs Commission’s Portal. If you have the time, this is something you can now do yourself, as all you need to start is to register/create an account for yourself on the portal and apply for a name search.
Once approval is given (usually within 24-72hrs), you can then initiate the process of registration, providing all the required information online. The process requires being meticulous in filling in the necessary information, otherwise, you will get a query from time to time, to provide the right information.
Click here to see instructional videos from CAC on how to go through the process
On the other hand, if you do not have the time to personally apply and follow through, you can engage the services of approved CAC agents and legal practitioners.
Note that the regulatory body for pharmacy practice in Nigeria – Pharmacists Council of Nigeria – requires that a Registered Pharmacist has to be one of the company directors and have the majority shares in the company that you have registered.
3. Find the right Location for your Retail Pharmacy
Your location is a Critical Success Factor. A thorough analysis of the potential traffic to the premise needs to be done before a location is chosen. Factors to consider in this include, among others:
Amount of foot traffic within the vicinity,
Vehicular traffic , with ease of parking considered,
Proximity to a Key Healthcare Center,
Proximity to a major Bus Stop/Train Station
Proximity to other high traffic businesses
Residential / Industrial environment, etc.
A good location analysis will show you that the potential (or lack of it) to have maximum traffic is appreciable to generate enough sales and grow the business, not just for today but also for the future.
Traffic that is inadequate is not likely to produce enough sales to cover your overheads and could potentially lead to business failure. Quite a few pharmacies close down every year because of this singular reason, not so different from the high mortality rate of SMEs in general.
4. Apply to Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) for Location Approval
Pharmacy practice in Nigeria is regulated by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN). It is a Federal Government parastatal established by Act 91 of 1992 (Cap P17 LFN 2004) charged with the responsibility for regulating and controlling Pharmacy Education, Training, and Practice in all aspects and ramifications.
Having completed the location analysis and you believe you have found the right one, the next step will be for your Superintendent Pharmacist to apply to the PCN for location inspection and approval. The council requires that:
the location is not in too close proximity with a major market, bus terminal or an environment not conducive for medicines,
the pharmacy space should be at least 30 square meters in size, and
the location must be at least, 200meters away from a pre-existing retail pharmacy.
Post-inspection, you get a go-ahead approval to continue setting up the premise, pending a final approval which comes from the second round of inspection. This second inspection & approval officially gives the business the legitimacy to do business.
5. Design and Set-Up your Premise
By regulation, the set-up of the pharmacy has to show a clear demarcation between non-prescription drugs – Over-the-counter (OTCs) – and prescription-only medicines (PoMs).
Functional considerations in terms of space include the dispensary, the counter, customer circulation area, store (optional, depending on the scale of the business), counseling room, etc. This should be carefully considered to create an aura of professionalism in the practice.
Aesthetics also play a major factor in the visual appeal and the attraction of customers to your practice. The design of the shelves, gondolas, counter, temperature control, and lighting should be moderately attractive to create some level of comfort for customers/patients.
With the learnings about the importance of personal sanitation when it comes to the control of the spread of Covid-19, provisions can also be made for customers/patients to wash or sanitize their hands.
When all is set, the Superintendent Pharmacist can then apply for a final inspection and approval by PCN, as well as the maiden annual registration.
6. Identify, Engage & Procure products from Registered Wholesale Distributors
The drug distribution system in Nigeria today, leaves much to be desired as there is a subsisting chaotic angle to it. Nigeria is known for the so-called “drug markets” where drugs are traded in very inconducive environments and conditions of storage. In order to reduce the likelihood of procuring sub-standard and/or fake products, it is always advisable to patronize PCN-registered wholesalers and distribution companies.
Another trend in the wholesale distribution of pharmaceuticals is that quite a few distributors and wholesalers now provide delivery services and online ordering systems to streamline the whole process and logistics of ordering for stock.
The premise has to have a pharmacist on duty at all times the pharmacy is open. The Superintendent can be assisted by Locum (Part-time) Pharmacists since retail pharmacies are usually open from morning to night – typically between the hours of 8 AM to 10 PM. Some pharmacies in secured locations provide 24 hours services.
Staffing considerations are made based on opening hours which could be in shifts – morning, afternoon, and possibly night. A start-up pharmacy can start with Sales Assistants to work closely with the pharmacists in each shift and, as the business grows, other headcounts that could be required include Inventory/Procurement Officers, Accountant, Security Personnel, etc.
Note that there could be other minor steps to take in starting a retail pharmacy business in Nigeria. Having said that, from my experience these are the big blocks. Please feel free to ask questions and comment below.