Following the ban placed on exportation of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients(APIs) by the Indian government on Tuesday, as the Wuhan Coronavirus continue to spread like wildfire around the globe, the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria(PSN) Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, has called on the Federal Ministry of Health(FMoH) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to constitute a task force to wade into the issue, which is fast degenerating into a matter of national health insecurity.
The Times of India had announced the decision of its government to ban the exportation of over 20 drugs including antibiotics, paracetamol, hormonal drugs and some vitamins, due to the shortage in supplies from China, the origin of the acute viral disease.
Although the medium allayed citizens fears over medicines scarcity, as it noted that the present stock-inhand of the APIs may be sufficient for two-to-three months to manufacture formulations, it however stated that the government can no longer export some APIs, until a future date.
Reacting to this development, Ohuabunwa in an exclusive chat with Pharmanewsonline, expressed his absence of surprise on the matter as he recalled the Society’s earlier warning to the government on national security.
He explained that during the PSN national conference in 2017, themed: “Local drug production and protecting national security” the Society cautioned the government on overdependence on foreign countries for drugs supply as it might boomerang.
His words:” What I am saying is that if we are running a country where there is too much dependent on external sources for help, we will run into crisis. A good example is that of this Coronavirus and the fact that China is virtually shut down because most countries of the world, especially Nigerians depend on China for pharmaceuticals raw materials, so there is bound to be some scarcity of the drugs that we are currently importing and APIs”.
On survival strategies to sustain availability of medicines, “which is the next essential commodity after food, I think the management of NAFDAC in collaboration with the FMoH should set up a task force to build and empower pharmaceuticals industries, for better local drug production”, he quipped.
The PSN President further narrated a better scenario to describe the situation saying “Let’s assume that there is war, what if we have diplomatic roar like Americans and Chinese are having, what do we do?
“We look at two areas, food sufficiency and medicine sufficiency. We can do our local plotting, but those are two areas that can cause crisis. If there is no food and no medicine, people will rebel because their livelihood are threatened, they can even endure Boko Haram and kidnappers, but if there is no food and medicine, it could lead to a chaotic situation in the country.
The NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, also reasoned along the same line with Ohuabunwa, cautioning that if nothing is done to address the situation urgently, it might result in a severe crisis, unless local manufacturing of drugs takes it rightful position in the country.
Adeyeye noted that China’s inability to find cure to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic necessitate greater global restrictions on its exports, especially medicines.
In a chat with an importer of pharmaceutical raw materials into the country, Mr Ilesanmi Rotimi, he told Pharmanewsonline that the situation is becoming more worrisome as most of his containers are trapped in China, and he is running short of supplies as the days go by.
Rotimi who acknowledged the sudden hike in the prices of drugs, said marketers had no choice than to increase prices by almost 300 percent in order to make up for the limited supply they are experiencing.