…Says collaboration is the key
Towards ensuring the safety and security of medicines in Nigeria, the Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong and Minister for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, have tasked pharmacists nationwide to rise to the challenge of ensuring sustainable access to safe, high quality and affordable healthcare through local production of medicines.
They gave the charge to pharmacists at the opening ceremony of the recently concluded 95th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), tagged Tin City 2022, with the theme: “Medicine Security in an Unstable Economy”, held at Crispan Suites & Events Centre, Jos, Plateau State.
Governor Lalong, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, noted that the theme is in line with the three policy thrusts of the state government in achieving universal health coverage for the people of the state, adding that his administration has established the Plateau State Contributory Healthcare Management Agency (PLASCHEMA), which is currently providing health insurance to citizens of the state.
“We have also approved the employment of healthcare providers into the services of the state health institutions because we believe this will go a long way in addressing the challenges in the health facilities due to shortage of manpower. We are also on the verge of completing the General Hospital and Trauma Centre, Riyom, General Hospital, Kwali, Kanke and Mabudi in Langtang South”, he said.
In his speech, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, commended pharmacists for their role during and after the pandemic, adding that it will be foolhardy to forget how the Covid-19 viruses threatened human existence and force them to adopt a new normal until God used the ‘scientists’, to bail humans out through the development of the vaccines.
He added, “This virus still lives with us and its devastating effects continue to remind us of things we need to do in order to avert being victims of the ‘medicine and vaccines nationalism’ that greeted our country in the wake of the global pandemic. Let’s be clear, pharmacists tried collectively and they made us proud as a country”, he said.
Speaking further, Ehanire, who was represented by Dr Pokop W. Bupwatda, chief medical director (CMD), University of Jos Teaching Hospital (JUTH), while acknowledging the immeasurable contribution of pharmacists to the healthcare sector and nation-building at large, however, noted that the challenge of medicine security lies squarely on their heads, urging them to brace up and rise to the occasion.
His words, “Your job is well cut out for you, so you must in collaboration with all other scientists put on your thinking caps to ensure that Nigeria joins the League of Nations that not only manufacture safe, effective, efficacious and affordable pharmaceutical products but also manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). You have a responsibility to transform this country from a vaccine-consumer nation to vaccine manufacturing for local use and export purposes. We must leverage the African Continental Free-Trade Africa (AfCFTA), as a new frontier of international trade capable of stabilising our economy.
He added, “Let me assure you that I am fully aware of the numerous challenges the sector is facing, which include the application of tariff on some imported pharmaceutical raw materials, lack of foreign exchange (forex) to do business. I am aware that some pharmacists in some hospitals have not been paid their long withheld April and May 2018 salaries, despite budgeted funds for this purpose, salary structure adjustment as was done for CONMESS, the payment of reviewed hazard allowance and the implementation of the Consultant Cadre for Pharmacists in the public service. We do not take these issues lightly and be assured that utmost attention is being paid to all.
In his keynote address, titled “Medicines’ Security: Consolidating Health Access Gains & Catalysing National Development in the New Year”, Dr Obi Adigwe, director general of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), noted that medicine security is a concept and argued that unless a people exert sufficient control over how the medicine is produced, sustainable access to relevant, affordable, high-quality products cannot be guaranteed in that setting.
According to him, some contextual strategic objectives embedded in the medicine security concept include sustainable access to affordable high-quality medicine, ensuring GMP and stimulating backward integration, job creation and economic development, technology transfer and intellectual property, promoting contextual research, developing local capacity, revenue generation and conservation of forex, as well as widening of all relevant tax bases.
He added, that Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry is one of the biggest in Africa, with close to 200 local manufacturing facilities, a market size estimated at 2 billion USD, adjusted gross revenue (AGR) at 13 per cent, predicted to double in size by 2026, while it accounts for over 60 per cent of the pharma manufacturing capacity of ECOWAS.
He continued, saying to get the job done, there must be political will, prioritisation of the 2021 presidential speech, a general system approach, command and control. Talking about the timelines, SMART objectives, which encompass a strong extra government component, sustainability plan, and transition plan should be adopted.
Earlier in his speech, the PSN president, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, who thanked President Buhari for his assent to the Pharmacy Bill, however, urged him to consolidate the gains of the Pharmacy Act 2022 as he critically evaluates the PSN proposals in that regard, adding that the Pharmacy Bill will curb inappropriate drug distribution channels which have made Nigeria famous for the fake drug syndrome.
“I find it imperative to call on the presidency and other appropriate arms of government that the Pharmacy Bill has the propensities to restore normalcy to our indecorous drug distribution channels which have made Nigeria famous for the fake drug syndrome. This oddity is surmountable through proactive action of adequate funding of the PCN and other agencies that regulate the drug distribution channels, especially NAFDAC and NDLEA”, he stated.
Usifoh, however expressed worries that over 5000 pharmacists have left the shores of Nigeria in search of the proverbial greener pasture, adding that the trend cuts across the entire healthcare sector and beyond.
He added that Pharmacy can contribute immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy through increased local production to ensure medicine safety and save much-needed forex, adding that pharmacists can provide quality leadership in all sectors including banking, telecoms, and ICT, among others.
In the views of the DG, NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, and Pharm. Muhammed Yaro Buda, former president, of PSN, the theme was topical and forward-thinking as the nation is just recovering from the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the health sector, adding that medicine security implies that every healthcare facility, healthcare provider, and patients all over the country have reliable, reputable access to medicine supply that they need at all times.
The conference had in attendance several other personalities from the healthcare sector and other walks of life, including His Majesty, Dr Jacob Gyang Buba, chairman, Plateau State Council of Chiefs: Pharm. Babashehu Ahmed, registrar, PCN; Prof. Cecilia Igwilo, president, WAPCP, represented by Dr Margret Obono, chairman, WAPCP, Nigeria; Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, president, NAPHARM, represented by Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, vice-president; Dr Theresa Pounds, president, NAPPSA; Col. Stella Ibeh, managing director, NADMACO; Dr Olubunmi Stella Aribeana, director, Food and Drugs, FMOH; Oba Julius Ademola Ajibola, Olusin of Ijara-Isin, Kwara State; Dr Stella Usifoh, head of the department of clinical pharmacy, UNIBEN; Prof. Tanko Ishaya, vice-chancellor, UNIJOS; Dr Didier Mouliom, secretary, AFP.
Others were Pharm. Anthony Akhimien, former president, PSN; Pharm. Azubuike Okwor, former president, PSN; Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, former president, PSN; Pharm. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, immediate past president, PSN; Dr Nimkong Ndam, commissioner for health, Plateau State; Prof. Femi-Mbang Oyewo, immediate past chairman, BOF; Dr (Mrs) Stella Ochepe, former minister of water resources; Gen. Buba Marwa, director general, NDLEA, represented by Haruna Usman, secretary; and Dr Ejiro Foyibo, deputy president, South, among others.