Concerned about huge medicine import into the country to the detriment of local manufacturing, stakeholders in pharmacy sub-sector on 20thAugust, 2019 held a roundtable and took pragmatic steps that could lead to a reversal of the trend.
Indeed the Nigeria pharmaceutical sub-sector has huge potentials to exploit towards boosting her local production capacity but the political will and policy implementation keep dragging every effort to a state of inertia.
The roundtable discussion which reportedly had in attendance critical stakeholders such as, Ministry of Health, PCN, PSN, NAFDAC, NIPRD, PMG-MAN, CBN, BOI, Nigeria Association of Pharmacists in the Academia, Raw Material Research and Development Council, United States Pharmacopoeia, Research, Documentation and Industrial Liaison Committees of PSN and Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, could not have come at a more auspicious time than now.
The incumbent administration’s seeming commitment to diversification of the nation’s economy with emphasis on self-sufficiency should be exploited maximally and leveraged to push for the implementation of the age-long national drug policy to pave way for 70 per cent local manufacture of medicines in the country.
According to Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, PSN President, the parley was a strategic effort to agree on targets and deliverables, and to assign responsibilities to all stakeholders to ensure that measurable outcomes are achieved.
Ohuabunwa also said that the attendees were frank in raising questions relevant to a purposeful quest for disrupting the current order. That is commendable.
We wish to emphasise that initiatives such as this should be sustained and backed by unalloyed commitment by members in other to see it through. There is the need to develop a national strategy and plan of action to facilitate local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity and increase access to locally manufactured quality assured drugs and this is where the stakeholders meeting should play an important role.
Self-sufficiency in medicine is inevitable if we are committed to offer access to affordable and qualitative medicines to millions of Nigerians ravaged by common diseases. The current situation whereby the country relies on 70 per cent of its medicine needs from import and leaving 30 per cent to local manufacturers is scandalous and unacceptable.
Apart from offering access to millions of Nigerians, local manufacture of medicines has the potential to earn huge foreign exchange for the country. It also has the capacity to absorb a good percentage of our jobless youths and therefore should be given adequate attention. With over 200 registered local drug manufacturing companies that met international standards operating in Nigeria, it is ironic that importation of essential medicines continues to flourish.
Countries like India and China that rank among the major global manufacturers of medicines are reaping bountifully from their exports in medicinal products and Nigeria can borrow a leaf from them. The travails of the pharmaceutical sub-sector are inextricably tied to government’s inability to complement the titanic struggles of manufacturers in the form of provision of friendly operating environment.
The failure by successive administrations to achieve the objectives of the revised National Drug Policy 2004 that set a target of meeting domestic medicine needs by 2008 did not help matters.
PMG-MAN had at different times bemoaned the hostile operating environment its members face in the course of running their businesses, chief among them being the absence of soft loans. It is therefore cheery news that CBN and BOI, two relevant financial organisations were present at the stakeholders meeting. We urge authorities in both financial bodies to work out a strategy that will reduce cost of loans to this critical sector to a single digit with robust repayment plan.
Investment in the pharma sub-sector is capital intensive but there is huge reward that accompanies it. The global market share of pharmaceutical products is estimated in excess of $1.3 trillion with a potential to double in the next few years and Nigeria can key into this flourishing trade.
The National Drug Policy must therefore be revisited, and it is incumbent on the present administration to urgently set in motion actions that can improve policy coherence in the pharmaceutical sub-sector, support human capital development, innovation, quality assurance systems, and strengthening national regulatory authorities. This is because the successful transformation of the sub-sector and the strengthening of the pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity require these factors to effectively achieve the desirable outcomes.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic team should as a matter of urgency focus on how to boost the pharmaceutical sub-sector for enhancing the healthcare system and saving scarce foreign exchange. The economic slogan of the current administration that emphasises self-sufficiency will be incomplete if it did not manifest in the pharmaceutical sub-sector.