Deputy Governor of Imo State, Professor Placid Njoku, has lamented that despite a large pharmaceutical subsector with at least 100 manufacturing companies, Nigeria still rely largely on 70 per cent of imported drugs with 30 per cent locally manufactured medicines. He condemned the situation the more noting that even the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and excipients of the locally produced medicines are imported, as he called for a repositioning of the industry.
He made this statement on Wednesday at the fifth anniversary of St. Racheal’s Pharma and launch of its new product, Azithromycin, in Lagos. Theme of the event was “Manufacturing Renaissance: A Must for Prosperity in Nigeria”.
He noted that Nigeria, with its huge population, still depends on India, China, Germany, United States, Pakistan and Netherlands for 70 per cent of its drug needs, spending billions of naira.
Njoku said: “The nation imports more than N200 billions of anti-malarial medications and approximately N600 billions of antibiotics each year, and in the first quarter of 2021, it imported an estimated N395 billion worth of antibiotics to combat ailments related to COVID-19.
“The total amount the country spends on importing drugs exposes it to international drug risks, while essentially funding the pharmaceutical industry of other countries across the world.”
He mentioned that there are numerous herbs which could be used as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and make up the majority of imported drugs, and he urged local manufacturing companies to take advantage of this and make the country less reliant on imports.
Patrick Ajah, the managing director/CEO of May & Baker Nigeria, expressed his sadness over the major troubles faced by pharmaceutical manufacturers, such as the significant amount of money (N250 million) that must be spent monthly on electricity generation due to the unreliable power supply.
He noted that high interest rates, restrictive regulations, governmental policies, extortion of businesses by government entities, and inadequate infrastructure were all issues.
“The country needs to find other ways to participate in global economy, especially as it has signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Local pharmaceutical production could help the vulnerable population gain access to quality medicine, as seen during COVID-19,” he asserted.
Ajah stated that, in comparison to India that has around 3,000 registered pharmaceutical companies and more than 10,500 manufacturing sites, only 115 local pharmaceutical producers are able to provide for the drug needs of less than 40 percent of the nation’s populace.
“If we don’t build our manufacturing sector, other countries will come and claim it from us by building their facility and taking the money back to develop their countries,” he warned.
Pharm. Jimi Agbaje, who had been a candidate for governor on the ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), called for government policies and a favourable environment to allow the pharmaceutical industry and other areas of the economy to flourish and prosper in the nation.
Mrs Olatomiwa Williams, the Microsoft country manager for Nigeria and Ghana, asserted that technology ought to be used to stimulate the manufacturing industry in Nigeria, in order to foster sustainability and open up employment opportunities for the numerous youths.
Williams advocated for the pharmaceutical industry to use technology like AI, analytics, and cloud data to facilitate the production process during his talk on ‘Manufacturing Renaissance: Technology as an Enabler’.