As Nigerians celebrate 62nd independence anniversary, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has raised concerns on the safety of the nation, saying the giant of Africa is not safe at 62, if a larger percentage of its medicines are still being imported .
The Chairman, Lagos State Chapter of PSN, Pharm. Gbolagade Iyiola, made this remarks in an exclusive interview with Pharmanewsonline, at the 2022 Scientific Week of the state chapter, held at the Sheraton Hotel& Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday. With 70 per cent of medicines imported into the country, he said the system predisposes the nation to attacks from other countries, as toxic substances could be mixed with any of the imported medicines as a weapon of mass destruction .
He thus urged the Federal Government to work towards reversing this ugly trend in he health sector, through the provision of adequate funds for the sector, which in turn could transform the nation’s economy, through the development of local drugs raw materials and production local medicines.
“At 62 for a country called giant of Africa, we are not safe, if we are importing our medicines, because we know that if you want to kill millions, just put toxic substances into what they will use to heal diseases, ameliorate disease conditions. So we are not safe, if we are importing about 70 per cent medicines.
“Again at 62, with the resources we have put into having a viable pharmaceutical industry, with the papers that are lying fallow, we should be able to have at least 70 per cent sufficiency of our medicines made locally”, he quipped.
Iyiola, also used the opportunity to call governments attention to the need to be fair to all health workers, as he condemned preferential treatment for any set of health workers. He said a situation where government has formed the habit of appointing physicians as health minister is wrong, because if a madman is given a hoe, he will how to himself.
Speaking on the theme of the programme, “Innovative Approach Towards Ensuring Medicine Security: The Place of Local Production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in Nigeria”, the keynote speaker, Pharm. Kunle Oyelana, did an x-ray of the present condition of the pharma industry, which has 70 per cent importation, 30 per cent local manufacturing, poor healthcare coverage, 30 per cent access to medicines, insignificant contribution to the GDP, among others.
Oyelana, who is also managing director, GSK, posited that to achieve local production of APIs in the country, stakeholders must commence from the foundation, which is the reconstitution of Pharmacy schools curriculum, as he charged committee of deans to rework the curriculum in tandem with recent development in the industry.
He noted that once this is done, it will enhance rapid growth in the Research and Development area, which will invariably facilitate the development of raw local pharmaceutical materials.
Citing an example of China, which made more profits from APIs, than Nigeria made from crude oil, Oyelana expressed optimism in Nigerian pharmaceutical sector attaining such height, if the necessary tools for the industry are readily available. He highlighted the prerequisites for APIs manufacturing in the country to include: “a viable petrochemical industry, economies of scale, infrastructure and human capital”.
Appreciating the Lagos PSN, as the leading chapter in the country, the PSN President, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, described the theme of their scientific week as very apt, which is in tandem with the theme of the forthcoming national conference, “Medicine Security in an Unstable Economy”. He urged the pharmacists to be in attendance at the conference which will hold in Jos.
Usifoh, who was represented by Pharm. Gafar Madehin, PSN national treasurer, expressed gratitude to the Federal Government for the signing of the Pharmacy Bill into law, stating that with the new Bill with a new registrar on board portends a bright future for pharmacists in the country.
The scientific week also saw the establishment of Past Chairmen Forum of the association, with Pharm. Jimi Agbaje, as the leader of the group, as they were duly decorated and saddled with the responsibility of being think tank of the association.
Other dignitaries in attendance at the event were: Registrar, PCN, Pharm. Ahmed Babashehu; GMD, Emzor Group, Dr (Mrs) Stella Okoli, ably represented by Pharm (Mrs) Uzoma Ezeoke; Managing Director, May & Baker, Pharm. Patrick Ajah; Commissioner Police, Lagos State; and past chairmen of the state chapter.