LP Stories: The Pharmacist Who Is Also a Blockchain Expert
Life as a Pharmacist (LP) Stories is a PSN-YPG Lagos series that spotlights unique experiences and views of Young Pharmacists in their areas of practice.
Pharm. David is the founder of OneRX and currently hosts Skill-up Pharma, where he plans to train 1000 young pharmacist on relevant digital skills. His journey into tech began in late 2018 after registering for a data science boot camp. A few years down the line, his interests have rapidly evolved. In this story, David shares his life as a tech entrepreneur and how the drug supply chain can be made more effective with blockchain technology.
When did you decide to go into tech?
I developed a passion for tech after I got the opportunity to register for a data science boot camp. It was around the time that I decided to transition into tech — this was between late 2018 and early 2019 — although I was learning HTML before I gained admission into the university. But it was in 2019 that I decided to go all in and take it more seriously.
Registering for the data science boot camp helped me because it gave me the opportunity to explore tech from the perspective of the pharmacist — the organisers of the programme were pharmacists. Through the programme, I got mentorship opportunities and also grew my network.
What do you like most about what the job you do?
As a pharmacist or as a tech entrepreneur?
Let’s talk about entrepreneurship.
The most interesting thing about being an entrepreneur is thinking about a product and making it materialise. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs always have many ideas but the challenge is in execution. So, once you see an idea yielding positive results, it makes you happy and fulfilled.
What makes you feel fulfilled about your work?
The most important one is the impact we are making at OneRX Africa. We just got started with OneRx Academy, and recently completed the first cohort of the Skill-up Pharma. We have been amazed at how things are going.
The goal is to bring out more innovative products in the future that will change people’s lives.
What is your daily routine?
I wake up in the morning and have my quiet time. During a typical work week, I work 8am to 4pm at my day job, and spend the remaining hours of the day working on OneRx Africa.
I have a list of things that I want to achieve each day, if I have a meeting it’s already scheduled — everything is in my to-do list. Also, I communicate with my team to ensure that the system is working well, and if there’s a time I need to roll up my sleeves to help out, I do that too.
How many hours do you give to OneRX after your full-time work?
From 4pm to 11pm, basically. I work overtime on some days. In the early stages of a business, there’s always a lot of work to do…and you have to give it your all.
How do you compensate?
Ah! That’s one of my biggest challenges. The next day after working overtime is usually very rough. Currently, I’m doing my internship and I can’t wait to be done.
What problems do you see in the pharmaceutical industry?
When it comes to pharmacy practice, my line of thought is as it concerns the digital area. I feel that pharmacists are not utilising the digital space as they ought to.
A popular Nigerian doctor once made a Twitter thread about Apetamin. His tweets focused only on the negative effects of the vitamin syrup, and he went on to say that some pharmacists were still marketing the drug because of the profit they make from it. I had expected the public health pharmacists on Twitter to challenge this claim because the information is misleading.
Young pharmacists should be more vocal in the online space. There are numerous benefits that come with being a digital health influencer. These days, non-pharmacists and random influencers are advertising drug products, which is a job best suited for pharmacists. We are really leaving money on the table in this regard.
Our role as pharmacists is beyond the hospital and community pharmacies.
Regarding blockchain technology, why should pharmacists care?
Cryptocurrency is universal, it doesn’t care about your profession. It has helped to improve the financial situation of many people in Africa. Many things are happening outside pharmacy, so we should have an open mind towards all these.
How can this technology solve the problems in the pharma industry?
Blockchain technology can help to make the drug supply chain more efficient. For instance, if a drug product is to be transported from Lagos to Ibadan, and the vehicle carrying the drug makes a stop at Aba before arriving at Ibadan, the blockchain can detect these movements, which otherwise would have been unknown to the end user.
Also on the blockchain, you can find details about a drug’s production process — source of the raw materials, manufacturing location, mode of transportation, temperature of product throughout the course of production and distribution. The most interesting part is that the blockchain records all these data into a public ledger that can be easily accessed by anyone, so if there’s any tampering at any stage of the supply chain it would be easily detected by all the concerned parties.
Is there any healthtech company in Nigeria you believe has the potential to do this in the future?
Uhmm, I’ll say OneRx. We are actually looking into it, it’s part of our long-term plans. Who knows, we might still be the first.
I believe that if healthtech entrepreneurs get more knowledge on ways to incorporate blockchain into their services, they’ll be able to come up with even better solutions. Already, I have heard of a group of pharmacists who participated in a hackathon and proposed this sort of blockchain solution; they finished in third place.
What do you think about healthtech companies creating their own crypto token to help them raise funds?
It depends…before a company creates a token, they have a use-case for it. This is because the value of a token is based on its real life application. For instance, a company might want to create a token that you can use to pay bills and purchase drugs from community pharmacies, it will definitely attract many users because it has a tangible use-case.
There are companies that have created tokens, and they have not been able to generate capital from it. The focus for companies looking to create tokens should be on designing a use-case.
What about NFTs in healthtech?
NFT is just like the internet boom at its early stages. Although, there are still some people who believe that NFTs are a bubble that will soon burst. In every market, there is a time that price will get to a point, the climax, and it will have to come down. Everything has a cycle, there are the highs and the lows. For NFTs, we are currently experiencing the highs and I don’t think the lows will be funny.
NFT is still at its infancy stage, it’s not something that should be relied on at the moment. Also, NFTs require a tangible use-case as well; otherwise it’s not more than a picture.
Is there no way health professionals can take advantage of NFTs?
It’s possible. Health professionals can sell pictures of unique moments as NFTs. What actually gives NFTs value is some level of uniqueness — degree of rarity. The opportunity is there, all they have to do is list the pictures as NFT on OpenSea where potential buyers can find them.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I don’t see myself doing the conventional pharmacy practice. My love for tech supersedes, but I also do not want my 5 to 6 years in pharmacy school to be in vain, so I plan to start my own community pharmacy in the future.
As an entrepreneur, I believe in building systems. Once I’m able to set up these systems to function on their own, then I’ll have more time to do other things.
On a scale of 1 — 10, how easy was it for you to get started in tech (10 being the easiest)?
It wasn’t easy. Can I use a scale of 5, and 5 being the easiest?
It’s relative, I’ll say in between… I’ll go with 3. I started learning HTML even before I gained admission into the university, so I already had a flair for tech. It was quite easy for me.
But for someone who is starting out as a novice, it can be difficult and some tech skills, like programming and coding, are harder to learn.
Any advice for young pharmacists looking to build a career in healthtech?
I just want to let pharmacists know that there are numerous opportunities in healthtech — tech is the new oil — and the field is still largely unexplored. People without a medical background are really struggling to break into this field, it is us (health professionals) that understand the problems the healthcare industry is facing. There are indeed numerous opportunities for health professionals to thrive in the healthtech space.
As a pharmacist. Just do something tech related, and you will not regret it.
***Glossary of terms
Blockchain is a digital ledger that stores information in blocks that are linked.
Crypto tokens are tradable assets or utilities that reside on their own blockchains. Tokens can be used for investment purposes, to store value, or to make purchases.
NFT represents non-fungible tokens and it is a tradable digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, videos, etc.
The Life as a Pharmacist (LP) Stories is published every second and last Wednesdays of each month. Every month has a new theme — April’s theme is “pharmacists in tech”.
Now, if you want to share your story or know an interesting person we could feature, fill out this form.