Drug Importation Reduction: Consult Stakeholders for Actualisation, PSN Urges FG

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Prof. Cyril Usifoh

For the new policy of the Federal Government to reduce drug importation from 60 to 40 per cent to be a reality, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has insisted that the government must dialogue with key stakeholders to bring the decision to fruition.

 

Special Adviser to the President on Health, Salma Anas-Ibrahim, had disclosed on Wednesday, at a workshop in Abuja organised to strengthen the World Health Organisation (WHO) Nigeria’s cooperation strategy, government's intention to reduce drug importation from 60 to 40 per cent.

 

Reacting to the development, PSN President, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, on Thursday, appreciated the Federal Government for the initiative  to boost local pharmaceutical production, but observed that before making such declaration, government should have consulted with key players in the industry for proper counseling on how to tackle challenges confronting local manufacturers in the country, in order for the policy to be achieved.

 

The number-one pharmacist in the country, further lauded the decision on the basis that it will enhance the drive towards the achievement of medicines security in Nigeria, which will forestall the ugly scenario that played out during the COVID-19 era, when nations, including Nigeria were short of medicines supply from Indian  and China.

 

Usifoh, who spoke in a televised programme said “I think it is good news for us, but at the same time, there are some things that we need to raise and discuss on the matter. First and foremost, it  is to improve local pharma production and that is one of the things I campaigned with when I became president, that we need to improve local production,  we need to make our own pharmaceuticals and medicines here.

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“What I am saying is that, stakeholders should have been properly consulted before such pronouncements were made. The reason is that, if you reduce importation from 60 per cent to 40 per cent, we really don't have many industries producing what we need for medicines. I'm talking about the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), we need to get the infrastructure and basic things necessary, so as to enable us produce these drugs. It is not just for pharmaceutical industries to flourish, but will be able to meet the medicines needs of average Nigerian.

 

“Government needs to engage key players in the pharma industry, so that they can tell government what exactly their challenges are and how they are resolved for the prosperity of the nation.

 

“Indeed we talked about medicine security and we all knew what happened during the COVID-19 era, if we don't produce our medicines, we are likely to run into difficulties as time goes on. However, government as usual has come up with policies which we do welcome, but due consultation is paramount.”

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He reiterated the need for government to partner stakeholders, saying it is one thing to make pronouncement, but it is another thing for the enabling environment to exist for local manufacturers to thrive. If pharmaceutical companies are having difficulties with energy, power supply, then they may not be able to meet your needs, he explained. He cited examples of pharma organisations in Agbara, presently grappling with poor road network, which is restricting them from appropriate evacuation of their products to wholesalers.

 

The PSN boss, also mentioned the recent japa syndrome in the profession, which has seen over seven thousand pharmacists left the shores of the country for greener pastures in the past three years, leaving the local industries short of qualified personnel. He lamented how indigenous pharma companies are in dire need of pharmacists to man different areas, but they are nowhere to be found.

 

“In addition, we have this Japa syndrome in Pharmacy, during my first statement earlier, he mentioned that many pharmacists are leaving the country, up till now, I can count up to 7,000 pharmacists, that have left the shores of the country for greener pastures in the last three years, and employing pharmacists is becoming a problem because, you don't have them to actually serve in the pharmaceutical industry. So manpower need is a big problem, which we need to address adequately as this opportunity is right here in our doorstep”, he emphasised.

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The 60 per cent to 40 per cent reduction in drugs importation will also serve as income generation means to the nation, maintaining that if all issues are resolved and the local pharma manufacturers are empowered at all fronts, Nigerians will not only have their medicines supply locally, but the industry will also supply other countries in the West African sub-region, which will boost foreign exchange for the country.

 

He said “if we do more local production then, we cannot only supply Nigeria, but can we supply the West African sub-region and that will bring more foreign exchange for the country and I hope the petrochemicals that will help us to produce the APIs will be vigorously pursued so as to also create employment for these pharmacists, who are leaving the shores for greener pastures. Hopefully, there will be better remuneration, better health for the nation, because when people are healthy, the workforce is healthy, then of course, you'll be able to have greater productivity in the country”.

 

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