For the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry to be out of the woods of medicine insecurity, especially as lately exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for the Federal Government and regulatory agencies to develop stricter policies against drug importation, while incentivising local manufacturing, through the provision of social infrastructures, funding and foreign exchange.
These were the submissions of Pharm. (Mrs) Clare Omatseye, MD/CEO, JNC International; and Pharm. (Dr) Dere Awosika, chairman, Access Bank Group, at the recent 15th Biennial National Conference of the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs), held at Radisson Blu Hotel, in Lagos.
While analysing the pharmaceutical industry’s over-reliance on importation which was valued at around $1.45 billion in 2019, despite campaigns and efforts to reduce importation, the duo submitted that urgent and practical steps must be taken by all stakeholders to boost local drug production, while discouraging importation.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews, shortly delivering the keynote address at the conference, Omatseye decried the level of local manufacturing in the country, saying it is largely basic in nature, restricted to mixing and bottling, or punching into tablets, with zero vaccination production capacity.
She categorically tasked the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on reducing the number of drug importers in the country, as well as developing stricter measures against illegal importation and distribution of drugs, adding that only qualified and registered pharmaceutical companies should be given approval to import.
She said: “PCN and NAFDAC need to work to streamline the number of importers of drugs into the country, as they ensure stricter measures in place with stiffer penalties for illegal importers of drugs. Only qualified and registered pharmaceutical organisations should be given approvals for importation, while all hands are on deck for the speedy implementation of the Drug Distribution Policy.
“PMG-MAN also needs to do a critical analysis of all their inputs and come up with a list of the top 10 imported APIs and excipients. This should be followed with a strategic move, starting with the low hanging fruits to begin the in-country production of some of these materials, such as paracetamol, artemether, lumefantrine, pharmaceutical grade starch, flavours, colorants, binders, disintegrants etc.”
Omatseye, who is also president, West African Private Healthcare Federation, commended Fidson Pharmaceuticals and Emzor Group for their interest in API development. She emphasised that despite the challenges, other pharmaceutical companies must follow the good example of Fidson and Emzor, in learning to turn their challenges into opportunities, as Nigeria is blessed with several medical plants, which need to be harnessed for medicine security.
“While striving for global best practices, let us start with what we have while. We should actively promote and encourage contract manufacturing so that we use up the idle capacity of our existing manufacturing sites. We also encourage others to build either extensive or modular factories that can help meet the need of the teeming Nigerian population”, she said.
Also speaking on the theme of the conference, “Pharmaceutical Value Chain for Optimal Utilisation – Where Are We?”, Dr Awosika examined the strength of the pharmaceutical value chain, while charging lady pharmacists to take their rightful positions in the healthcare delivery system. She stressed that no one can create good health indices in the country except pharmacists.
The Access Bank boss further urged pharmacists to change the ugly narratives in the healthcare system. She noted that there is a need to close all gaps in local drug manufacturing, stating that it is unfair to short-change Nigerians through continuous importation of drugs with inadequate medicines supply.
Awosika remarked, “We must not value ourselves below the training we have received, because we have a very long value chain that will create employment and good health indices. We are services-oriented, development-oriented; thus we need to get to a destination that is powerful and viable for local drug production. Don’t be deceived, no one can create good health indices except pharmacists.”
Earlier at the conference, the outgoing National Chairperson, ALPs, Pharm. (Mrs) Victoria Ukwu, highlighted the objectives of the National Drug Policy, which include improving access to essential drugs by making them available and affordable; ensuring safety, efficacy and quality of drugs available in the country; and promoting the rational use of drugs.
She explained that in ensuring access to safe, effective and quality assured medicines, a comprehensive approach is required across the pharmaceutical value chain.
The pharmaceutical value chain, she said, comprises several critical steps from initial development stage of medicines, to the final appropriate use by patients, adding that every arm of Pharmacy is therefore expected to play a role and add value to the chain.
Giving account of her four year-tenure as the leader of ALPs, Ukwu recalled impacts made in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as public education and campaigns on drug and substance abuse in secondary schools, humanitarian services through visits to orphanages and elderly homes, commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse And Illicit Drug Trafficking, International Day of the Girl-Child, among others.
She disclosed that as an expansion of the association’s girl-child support campaign, it has instituted an Education Fund for daughters of indigent widows and orphans in the six geopolitical zones of the Federation.
Welcoming delegates across the country to the conference, the host, Pharm.(Dr) Afusat Adesina, chairman, Lagos State ALPs and the Chairman, Conference Planning Committee, Pharm (Dr) Monica Eimunjeze, urged them to use the opportunity to upgrade their practice knowledge as well as interact for the purpose of collaboration.
The duo who acknowledged that the planning process of the conference wasn’t without challenges, expressed their delight in the overall success of the conference.
In attendance at the ALPs 15th Biennial Annual Conference were prominent women and leading pharmacists, including First Lady of Katsina State, Hajiya Hadiza Aminu Bello Masari; First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, represented by Pharm. (Mrs) Abiola Adedayo; First Lady of Edo State, represented by Mrs Oge Ejiro; Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, father of the day; PSN President, Prof. Cyril Osifoh; National Chairman, AHAPN, Pharm. Olabode Ogunjemiyo; Chairman, Board of Fellows, Dr Joel Adagazu; ACPN National Chairman, Pharm. Wale Oladigbolu; and Chairman, Lagos State PSN, Pharm. Gbolagade Iyiola.