Nigeria, others strategise on local manufacturing of drugs

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Economic recession notwithstanding, practitioners in the pharmaceutical industry have identified the imperative of new investments as driver of real development in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in Nigeria and Africa.

They said that with growing reduction in foreign direct investment, stakeholders must re-strategise efforts at attracting home-grown investments to keep the sector robust and meeting the needs of the citizens.

The call was made against the backdrop of growing scarcity of some imported pharmaceutical products and rise in prices of their locally-made counterparts, both of which were blamed on spike in foreign exchange rate to the Naira.

The Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) said the health sector and the Nigerian publics are beginning to feel the scarcity of some crucial pharmaceutical items, and called for special intervention fund to save the sector.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PharmaAfrica, Miles Mudzviti, said it was high time major stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors, came together to chart the way forward, with a common understanding on the type of industry they want to see in the next couple of years.

Mudzviti, who spoke ahead of the fourth edition of the Africa Pharmaceutical Summit and exhibition, said some of the issues most pressing for attention are in the area of capacity and capability for manufacturing, developing framework for deregulated environment and facilitating investments into the pharmaceutical industry among other.

He said, despite the current economic outlook, Nigeria, which is responsible for about 78 per cent of drugs manufactured in the West African region is at a vantage position to lead her neighbours into real development.

In his words: "I recognise that it is very challenging for local manufacturers in Nigeria at the moment with majority of the raw materials, equipment and maintenance all imported. At the current exchange rate, it is obviously that manufacturers will be on the back foot.

"There is, however, a space where government can play a role in supporting industries for the short term like giving forex till the economy improves. But on the main, there are opportunities in the long run."

He observed that over the years, there had been efforts to support local companies to get Who Health Organisation's (WHO) prequalification and a lot of investments through the Bank of Industry.

"Quite obviously, there is a lot more that can be done in terms of looking at how government, which is the main customer of manufacturers, buy these products. Public sector has really done well but there is more to be done.

"There are also interests from the private sector, with a lot still looking at Nigeria. The fundamentals for such investments are strong though the environment are quite challenging."

He added that the African Pharmaceutical Summit (APS) had been at the forefront of achieving the common frontier to develop the sector in Africa, organising APS summit across the regions.

He said Nigeria would lead neighbouring countries at the West African and fourth edition of the summit and exhibition, holding in Lagos from September 6 to 7.

Mudzviti said: "Nigeria is very key to the development of the sector in Africa, with greater concentration of indigenous companies here. This is the biggest economy on the continent as well.

"For us, we feel that it is an opportunity to bring the platform here and try to get some momentum on issues of common interest like distribution, upgrading capabilities, future landscape of health insurance, good distribution systems and practices," he said.

Chairman of the Lagos branch of Association of Community Pharmacists, Biola Paul-Ozieh, appealed to the Federal Government to activate the Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund (PIF), to save the pharmaceutical sector from total collapse.

Paul-Ozieh, noted that the high foreign exchange rate and the consequent high cost of purchase and importation of medicines were discouraging importers.

"The situation has also caused the increase in the products that have been imported. It is currently affecting the affordability of medicines among the ordinary Nigerians who pay-out-of-pocket for their healthcare. For us to be able to have universal health coverage we must have affordable medicine.

"The National Drug Policy also indicates that we must be able to make our medicines locally. If today in Nigeria, 80 per cent of the drugs we use are made locally, the drugs will be more affordable to the populace," she said.

Paul-Ozieh added that the PIF would serve as a revolving fund for drug manufacturers who need capital to build local manufacturing plants, thereby reducing the country's dependence on imported drugs.

"Government needs to encourage local manufacturers and put petrochemical industries in place, so that raw materials will be available and manufactures can source their raw materials locally. That way, we will be self-sufficient in terms of drugs production and administration in the country," she said.