Ghana is set to become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have a national-scale e-pharmacy and one of a very small number of countries in the world with a national-scale e-pharmacy, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia has announced.
This will involve digitising pharmacies across the country, he said, and enable consumers to have access to a wider scale of pharmacies in their quest to purchase medicines while giving regulators to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of drugs being purchased.
Speaking on the theme “Transforming an Economy Through Digitalisation: the Ghana Story” on Tuesday (2 November 202) at Ashesi University in Berekuso, Vice-President Bawumia said the introduction of digitisation into the sale and regulation of drugs is part of President Akufo-Addo’s vision to make life better and government services more accessible to the ordinary Ghanaian.
“Patients or people generally face difficulties when trying to find medicines in pharmacies. They have no way of knowing which pharmacies have the medicines,” said Dr Bawumia. “They could go to five pharmacies before getting lucky.
“Sometimes patients are directed to go to specific pharmacies to buy the medicine, denying them any advantage there might be of choosing from a lower-priced shop.
“People also don’t know what the prices of the medicines are at different pharmacies and tend in their time of vulnerability to just buy at the prices offered when they find the drug,” said the vice-president.
“It is also difficult to tell whether the medicines are genuine or fake. There is also the problem of drug abuse with prescription medicines like Tramadol.”
He added, “To address these problems, in 2019 I challenged the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana to digitise the operations of pharmacies in Ghana. Following this and working with my office, the Pharmacy Council, in collaboration with the private sector, has completed work on a digital platform for all pharmacies in Ghana and a pilot of 45 pharmacies is currently ongoing.”
Bawumia said, “Basically, the digital e-pharmacy platform will offer the opportunity to everyone through a mobile phone to upload your prescriptions and find out which pharmacies near you have the medicines. Second, you can compare the prices for the same drug offered by different prices so that you can buy from the lowest-priced pharmacies.”
Consumers will also be able to order drugs and pay for them on their phone using mobile money or GhQR (Scan and Pay) and other e-payment tools. The medicines will then be delivered to the customer at home viaa courier service.
Dr Bawumia added, “The E-Pharmacy will enable Ghana to address the issue of drug abuse. Those prescribed controlled medicines like Tramadol, for example, will only be given a one-time code, sent via SMS (once the prescription is uploaded), to use at the pharmacy.
“The e-pharmacy platform will also check fake or counterfeit medicines because the platform will be linked to the FDA [Food and Drugs Authority], which will monitor the batch numbers of all products in real time. Any drug for which the FDA does not have a batch number will be classified as fake.”
The E-Pharmacy is scheduled to launch before the end of the year, making Ghana the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have a national-scale e-pharmacy.
Ghana will also be one of the very few countries in the world with a national-scale e-pharmacy.
The Ashesi lecture, which was attended by academics, students, members of the clergy, chiefs and other members of the general public, was the latest by Vice-President Bawumia, aimed at getting Ghanaian citizens, and particularly the youth, to have a greater awareness of the work being done in the digital space, and to solicit their views on other areas that may need special attention.