A call has been made for an end to drug importation. Besides, government has been urged to provide an enabling environment for pharmacists to practise their trade. These were the demands of participants at a workshop at the 20th Annual Conference of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria at the Ball Room of the Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja. It was a departure from the norm. The meeting advocated a shift from 70:30 ratios in importation/manufacturing in pharmaceutical products to 30:70 indigenous manufacturing/importation.
Under the theme: ‘Growing the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry for greater economic impact’, the gathering explored how the sector could move from near collapse to vibrancy.
Taking the bull by the horn, the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Alhaji Ahmed Yakassai said government should provide the enabling environment for pharmacists to practise their profession, “it has been sundry said at different fora that PSN is the leading highly organised professional body in Nigeria. We have professional pharmacists whose products have even been accepted by the World health organisation when it comes to navel care of a new born baby. But the environment is not friendly at all for one to practise maximally.”
Citing an example, Yakassai said the vaccine manufacturing plant lying fallow at the medical Compound, Yaba, Lagos, is a big waste, “when there are professional pharmacists across the country that can work there to produce vaccine for the optimal use in the western African region.
“The company that is bidding for its operation had been on it for over a decade, yet the government is not letting go. It is high time government trusted us indigenous pharmacists in having a meaningful and robust public-Private-partnership.”
The key note speaker, CEO, Business School Netherland, Nigeria, Lere Bale said the summary is for teaching curriculum to be redesigned to meet with modern exigencies in pharmacy practice saying, “a pharmacist right from school should be trained in entrepreneurship. Nothing stops a pharmacist in collaborating by fusing his energy with others to create a product from the raw materials available in our society. China, Japan and even Ghana are moving up in their drug demands and supply by tapping into the raw materials they have in their countries. You may call those natural products neutriceuticals but it is healing their societies. Nigeria is richer in flora and fauna, it is high time we looked inward.”
He said educational structure should be planned to marry academia with industry so as to activate production of the bulk materials, “we may rename it Green pharmacy, and this can thrive on collaboration. So the tripod will be balanced- Academia, industry and government,” said Bale.
Gbenga Falabi, the Chairman, NAIP, said pharmacists are trained to solve problems and the time is now for them to dissect the Federal Government national policy so as to create a positive attrition for prosperity for Nigerians, leading to significant growth of the Nigerian pharmacy industry.
“As experts we called on pharmacists to stop importing finished pharmaceutical products and marketing same in the country, such an action kills innovation and skill involved in the compounding of formulas to solve health challenges. Moreso, they are unduly expensive due to FOREX. We want to rescue our country, profession and healthcare system,” said Falabi.
The chairman, Conference Planning Committee, Michael Heavens, said at the moment the local manufacturing arm of the industry’s output is 30 percent of all medicine being distributed in Nigeria while pharmaceutical imports account for about 70 percent, “We are no longer comfortable with that. We need to quickly arrest this or else the future of industrial pharmacists will go down the drain. This is what informed the decision of the association’s theme, for this 20th Annual National Conference. Research and development are the life source of the pharma industry and we want to encourage our colleagues, especially the marketers to move from outsourcing of drugs overseas to local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.”
Heavens added: “This transition, in our assessment could be the country’s pharma industry most significant contribution to inclusive growth, employment generation, and wealth creation in the country. The quick intervention of life-saving drugs in critical situations may mean the difference between life and death. And the local capacity to produce such is already established, however scaling up in capacity is the new challenge International Finance Corporation is coming to discuss at the conference with the need to begin to incentivise local production by government. We the pharmacists are saying the country cannot continue to rely on importation; rather it is high time, as experts, that self-sufficiency is attained.”