– Worries over imminent scarcity of essential drugs
In view of the numerous challenges currently facing the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has been charged to be more cognisant of measures that will encourage production and availability of essential drugs in the country.
National Chairman of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP), Pharm. Kenneth Onuegbu, made the call recently, at the 5th Annual International Conference of the Nigeria Association of Foreign Trained Pharmacists (NAFTraPh), held at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos State.
Speaking during the roundtable discussion at the event, with the theme, “Industrial Pharmacy Practice in Nigeria: the Pearls and the Challenges”, Onuegbu specifically urged NAFDAC to put a human face on its regulatory activities.
While commending the agency under the leadership of Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, especially on the attainment of Maturity Level 3 status, he urged the leadership of the agency to be conscious of the peculiar situation in the Nigerian pharma space, and therefore ensure that the industry is not “over-regulated”.
He explained that this is necessary to avoid discouraging sincere people from investing in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
“Many stakeholders in the industry have been complaining that our environment is over-regulated. Our regulation ought to have a Nigerian face; we cannot be promoting local production when regulation is making it difficult for those that want to manufacture to even start. But, as an association, NAIP will continue to engage NAFDAC,” Onuegbu said.
Highlighting some of the challenges facing pharmaceutical manufacturing in the country, the NAIP helmsman lamented that with the current state of the nation’s economy, there may be scarcity of essential drugs in the country, if nothing is done to urgently address it.
According to him, “Infrastructure is a major challenge in the pharma sector. Most, if not all pharma manufacturers today, survive on artificial power, using generators. Unfortunately, the price of diesel has gone up drastically; transportation is something else. Pharma companies now spend multiple of what they used to spend to move drugs to various destinations.
“To access forex is a big challenge. The process can take a year to get the CBN-subsidised rate; hence, we resort to the black market. You can imagine that we buy a dollar for over N1,000; automatically, it will affect production. If nothing is done to address the numerous challenges, there is going to be a scarcity of essential medicines. This is why we must all join hands together to domesticate production of medicines.
“We also have challenges with the availability of data. Everybody is holding on to information. The industry is also lacking core professionals. Government needs to tackle insecurity, epileptic power supply, forex and host of other challenges in the pharma sector, if they really want pharmaceutical companies to survive in this country.”
Onuegbu also decried the attitude of the political class, saying the majority simply play politics with the industry, a development he said is dangerous to the development of the country and the wellbeing of the citizens.
He said, “Our politicians are deceiving us. The political leaders are making little or no effort to ensure that essential drugs are produced locally in Nigeria. This is why we keep importing. We are not exporting. On an individual level, few companies are making efforts.
“As an association, we are making efforts, but the government seems to lack the political will to change things. They are only playing politics with the development of the pharmaceutical industry when they are supposed to take medicine security as part of national security.”