— As NIPRD, Bloom Launch WHO Pre-Qualification Project
Nigeria will soon become a global force to reckon with in pharma manufacturing and a role model for the pharmaceutical landscape on the African continent. This, among other illustrious prospects, reverberated around proceedings in the entire Jasmine Hall of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, at the weekend during the Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers’ quality improvement and capacity building session, signposting the WHO pre-qualification programme launch, sponsored by the World Bank and implemented by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) in partnership with Bloom Public Health.
WHO pre-qualification is the backbone of global health procurement. It aims to provide quality, safe and efficacious medicines for United Nations’ (UN) procurement agencies and to countries for bulk purchasing and distribution of medicines in resource-limited countries.
In his welcome address, NIPRD’s DG, Dr Obi Adigwe, exuded unparalleled optimism that the Nigerian pharma manufacturing sector is indeed on the path to global reckoning with the promising initiatives that have characterised his tenure in office.
“After close to a decade in planning, our initiative to catalyze Nigeria’s emergence as a world leader in pharma manufacturing has finally begun. The capacity we will build in the industry is key to achieving medicines’ security. Ultimately, this will not only improve health & socioeconomic indices, it will also underpin Nigeria’s emergence as the pharma hub within the AfCFTA,” he said.
While commending the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Mahmuda Usman, for ensuring continuity in terms of granting approval to programmes that would transform the entire spectrum of medicine safety and security in Nigeria, Adigwe also gave kudos to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and the Minister of State for Health, Dr Ekumankama Nkama, for their support in fast tracking and facilitating the design of the WHO pre-qualification programme.
Speaking on NIPRD’s preparedness to champion the transformation of the local pharma manufacturing landscape, Adigwe said the institute has so far designed over 20 pharmaceutical products. He lauded the contributions and support of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) and the AFREXIM Bank in terms of making available pools of funds to the tune of a hundred million naira and one million dollars, respectively, in support of NIPRD’s transformational initiatives for the Nigerian pharma manufacturing sector.
“NIPRD, in conjunction with other stakeholders, is working to make Nigeria the phytomedicine and pharmaceutical manufacturing hub of the African continent. This is in addition to our efforts towards improving the vaccines value-chain in the country,” he added.
CEO of Bloom Public Health, Professor Chimezie Anyakora, while expressing his elation on the WHO pre-qualification launch, said he had been worried for a decade about the beggarly position of Nigeria in terms of medicine security, even with the many great potentials available to the country.
“In the past ten years, I have been worried that most of the medicines donated to Nigeria and running into half a million dollars, were not produced here. We did not seem to have a timeline for addressing this problem. As big as Nigeria is, it is sad that we don’t have up to ten Nigerian pharma manufacturers that are WHO pre-qualified. We need to change the narrative. We have the expertise, the commitment and the resources,” he said.
Anyakora also expressed immense faith in the WHO pre-qualification initiative, adding that the Nigerian pharma manufacturing sector is poised to take its leadership position amongst the league of global players.
“I believe the WHO PQ project is going to be one of the most impactful interventions in the Nigerian pharmaceutical sector, as it will enable us to compete globally and also increase and strengthen the local capacity of the pharmaceutical sector,” he added.
President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Professor Cyril Usifoh, had inspiring words for NIPRD and Bloom Public Health for collaborating to put up such a well-meaning programme that would be of significant benefit to the entire Nigerian pharmaceutical sector.
“There have been a lot of conversations on quality medicines in Nigeria recently. Building capacity remains expedient in the development of the local pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria. NIPRD is doing well and needs to be encouraged. We need to source APIs locally to boost pharmaceutical production,” he said.
In her remarks, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), represented by Pharm. Kadija Ade-Abolade, said her agency played a huge role in the actualisation of the WHO pre-qualification programme. According to Adeyeye, the move started with the efforts of the late Dora Akunyili, who brought together Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers to consider qualification for the WHO GMP standard many years ago.
“The launch of this project in Nigeria is a bold step. We need innovative measures and sustainable investments to move our pharmaceutical industry forward in Nigeria,” she added.
On his part, Chairman of the Governing Council of the Pharmacists’ Council of Nigeria (PCN), Professor Ahmed Tijjani Mora, said the WHO pre-qualification is good for Nigeria in terms of enhancing medicine security. He added that the PCN is already working with other stakeholders like the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA) in areas such as the local production of APIs and excipients.
For the PMG-MAN Chairman, Dr Fidelis Ayebae, represented by Dr Okey Akpa, president of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association, some of them have been described as activists because of their preoccupation with the need for Nigeria to pursue radical and progressive improvements in its local manufacturing standards. He however, poured encomiums on NIPRD for spearheading what he called a right and timely intervention.
“In this journey of WHO pre-qualification, we want all stakeholders to be carried along through a united, coordinated and result-oriented approach,” he said.
Praising the Federal Government, particularly the Federal Ministry of Health for supporting the actualisation of the WHO pre-qualification project in Nigeria, Dr Ahmed Khedr, WHO team lead and Lagos Liaison Officer, said the programme came at the right time and shows that Nigeria is desirous of developing its local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.
Meanwhile, there was a barrage of goodwill messages coming from other stakeholders to NIPRD and Bloom Public for the actualisation of the WHO PQ project.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said, “I am pleased to see this initiative taking place in Nigeria’s health sector. It shows that production, regulation and supply of quality-assured medicines is a shared endeavor of the public and private sectors. The concerted effort of both stakeholders is essential to assuring Universal Health Coverage for better population health and well-being, as well as addressing needs for protection of citizens from public health challenges.”
In his message, the Minister of State for Health, Hon. Ekumankama Nkama, said, “By attaining WHO PQ, pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria will establish their capability to produce medicines that consistently meet stringent standards. Thus, facilitating international procurement and distribution of locally produced medicines in Nigeria.”
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Mahmuda Mamman, said, “This is a golden opportunity that Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers must leverage on to increase their capacity for local manufacturing, thereby strengthening Nigeria’s health system for better epidemic preparedness and response.
For the National Co-ordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr Perpetua Uhomoibhi, “The National Malaria Elimination Programme is keen to ensure more local manufacturers of anti-malarial commodities attain WHO pre-qualification and Good Manufacturing Practice certification and will work with Bloom Public Health and NIPRD to achieve this in line with global best practice.”
The launch of the WHO PQ project was well attended by dignitaries and CEOs of Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. Special recognitions were accorded to Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, immediate past-president of the PSN and Dr Stella Okoli, chairman of Emzor Group, amongst others, for their outstanding contributions to the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria.