Pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria have been charged to explore the huge potentials of the nation’s pharmaceutical industry, which will enhance the production of improved and quality drugs at affordable rates, thereby boosting the health of Nigerians.
The Founder and Managing Director, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr Johnson Chukwu, made this call on Tuesday at the Bimonthly Meeting/ Economic Outlook of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP) held in Lagos.
Chukwu, who was also the chairman of Standard Alliance Insurance PLC and member, Board of Directors of Royal Cross Methodist Hospital Ugwueke, Abia State, was the guest speaker at the NAIP Economic Outlook with the theme “The Pharma Industry in a Turbulent Economy-Managing the Harsh Realities of A Post COVID-19 Global Meltdown”.
In his presentation, he said pharmacists made people all over the world to survive COVID-19 with the provision of various medicines to tackle the pandemic, a gesture he said made the pharma sector, not just in Nigeria but all over the world to boom while other sectors were experiencing decline.
According to the guest speaker, though the pharma sector may have jump up during COVID-19 pandemic, there is urgent need for industrial pharmacists to take advantage of the opportunities the pandemic has presented.
He noted that the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry is loaded with huge potentials but the potentials need to be maximised. Chukwu said the global pharma industry has not considered Nigeria as a viable market and that is why the 10 biggest global pharmaceutical companies are not operating in Nigeria, except for GSK and possibly Pfizer.
He noted that the pandemic has led to increase in technological advancement in the pharma sector, adding that COVID-19 has brought about an increased in drug and vaccine production, increased funding to the sector, improved research, especially in the developing countries like Nigeria among others.
Citing India as a case study, he said Nigeria shared the same characteristics with India, a country with one of the largest pharma industries in the world, but he wondered why the Nigerian pharma industry is not like the Indians despite the huge potentials in the country. He therefore challenged NAIP to embark on backward integration so that they will be able to produce necessary drugs.
Earlier in his remarks, the National Chairman, NAIP, Pharm. Ken Onuegbu, said the economic outlook of the association, over the years has helped to proffer ways to face the economic reality and overcome it. He called on all industrial pharmacists in the country to be resolute in their quest to providing quality drugs and keep the industry running.
Speaking at the occasion, the managing director of SKG Pharma Limited, Pharm. Okey Akpa, who was the chairman of the event reiterated the need for NAIP and its members to walk the talk by translating the talks at the meeting into action so that they will be able to keep adding value.
He said “Post COVID is quite a challenging time. COVID-19 has presented a lot of opportunities that we can’t afford to waste. When COVID came, we all saw how a country can be brought to stand still. No matter how you argue, the truth remains that whoever controls supply chain controls the value chain indirectly. The question now is how do you control these two things- the value chain and supply chain? How do we minimise the level vulnerability as an industry, as a country and as a group of professionals?
“When there is drug scarcity, the blame is always on pharmacists with a question that why can’t we produce drugs. This is why we need to cooperate. I look forward to a meeting where we would be able to create harmony within the industry.
“We need to create harmony in the industry where the manufacturers will not take different stand, while the wholesalers and retailers take different stand. We need a harmonious policy direction. Until NAIP get it right, Nigeria will have problem in providing medicines and when we can’t provide medicines, we have failed as pharmacists”, the SKG boss said.
In his goodwill message, the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Prof. Cyril Usifoh, who was ably represented by the Deputy National President South, Dr Egbuna Udeorah, commended the industrial pharmacists for their indispensable role in the industry and charged them to keep the flag of the nation’s pharma sector flying by providing quality drugs at all time.
Also speaking at the event, a former President of PSN, Pharm. Ahmed I. Yakasai called for cooperation among pharmacists to enable the country have a viable national drug policy.
The National General Secretary of PSN, Pharm. Gbenga Falabi, urged the industrial pharmacists to be better pharmacists and not just an ordinary pharmacist. “We have been talking about drug availability long before COVID came but it appeared we were only talking with no actions, but we have learnt our lessons with the advent of COVID. So we should try to be better pharmacists and not just ordinary pharmacist”, Falabi said.
The Chairman, Board of Trustee of NAIP, Prof. Lere Baale, in his address called on all pharmacists in the country to come together to address the challenges facing the pharma sector, saying NAIP alone cannot do everything for the industry. He also harped on the need for pharmacists in the industry to provide veritable data, stressing that availability of data will help to make valuable presentation to the government, noting that the government is always interested in data.
Also speaking at the event, the Managing Director, WWCVL Mr Santosh Kumar highlighted the place of technology in managing the pharmaceutical field force, just as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) acquainted the gathering with its new product price verification mechanism.
Addressing the industrial pharmacists, an Assistant Director, Trade and exchange Department, CBN, Mrs E. A Tomoloju Okunomo, noted that the CBN new product price verification mechanism is meant to ensure that Nigeria gets value for every foreign exchange spent on any imported drugs.
The project coordinator for the price verification, Mr M Richard, noted that the price verification mechanism is all about verifying and ensuring that the declared price of products is the actual price for imported products, adding that the mechanism is being carried out for judicious use of foreign exchange with critical industry first which at the end will reduce capital flight.