Pharm. Fabian Afam Ozioko is the managing director of Vinco Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited, a wholly indigenous company which manufactures various brands of medicines, cosmetics and related products. In this exclusive interview with PETER OGBONNA, Ozioko highlights the vulnerabilities of the Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturing landscape, while advising government and other relevant stakeholders on strategies for encouraging local manufacturers and boosting local production. Excerpts:
Kindly tell us about Vinco Pharmaceutical
Vinco pharmaceutical Nigeria Limited is a fully indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing company, which has a functional and fully equipped manufacturing plant in Navy Town, near Festac, in Lagos State. We have been in business for more than ten years now.
The company was incorporated in 2000, and we started with importation of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics products. By 2008 however, our manufacturing facility had been built and fully equipped and it was commissioned that same year. We currently have over 30 NAFDAC-approved products.
Vinco is one of the companies that heeded the call for indigenous pharmaceutical companies to go into local manufacturing. What has your experience been so far in taking this bold step?
I can say that the field of local manufacturing is supposed to be an interesting one, but in Nigeria, manufacturing is more of a sacrifice than business because a lot of factors go against manufacturing in Nigeria. When you look at the Nigerian environment, you will find out that to manufacture is not very easy. There are many challenges including poor electricity supply, bad roads, poor infrastructure etc.
Generally, the decay in infrastructure in the country does not really encourage manufacturing but for those of us that have ventured into the manufacturing sector, it is more out of the love and the passion we have for the profession of Pharmacy and for the health of the nation. It is not easy at all and that is why we are crying to the government to see that this industry doesn’t go down because local drug manufacturing is a national security concern.
The events that followed the coming of COVID-19, in which some countries had to stop exporting certain drugs has emphasised this point. We cannot guarantee the health security of the nation, if we have to depend totally on importation for all our drug needs.
What are some of specific issues you would like the government to look into and address o that local drug manufacturers can be encouraged to be more productive than they currently are?
We expect the government to make available special grants and concessions to help local manufacturers to become more productive and be able to expand more rapidly. There is this intervention that CBN brought out within this COVID-19 period. It is still on but it’s only very few manufacturing companies that are able to access it. So we need more of that kind of intervention to expand the industry, to expand our capacity and to ensure that products are available all the time.
Also, our ability to source for raw materials should be enhanced. The tariff and the duties on raw materials should be reduced, if possible, to the barest minimum so that there will be availability of raw materials for local manufacturers at a cheaper rate.
Electricity is a big problem in Nigeria. The government should try as much as it can to ensure that this problem is solved because power is the number one item for industrialisation. Without power, you cannot go anywhere; you keep on spending money on diesel, on machineries, on generators, that will not lead you anywhere. We need to have steady power supply to be able to operate smoothly and maximize our potentials. This will help not only the pharmaceutical industries but the industrial sector, as a whole.
We also appeal to the government to create access to forex for local manufacturing companies. We know that a large number of businesses working within manufacturing have a chain of import and export activities, which depend on one another. So, government should look into the forex aspect to create an enabling environment for manufacturers.
Can you tell us more about some of your product lines and do you have any contract manufacturing agreement or partnership with any company in Nigeria?
Currently we don’t have any local contract with anybody. Our manufacturing section comprises purely our own brands of products. We have different brands of products and different classes of pharmaceutical products. We have analgesics, antimalarials, antibiotics and cardiovascular drugs. We have antacids. Some of our products, like Kilmal – which is our antimalarial – are very popular in the market. Kilmal is a brand of artemether and lumefantrine combination therapy. We have it in dosages for both adult and children.
What are you putting in place to sustain the quality and the trust that people have for you and what advice do you have for the consumers of your products?
My advice to the consumers of our products, especially Kilmal, is that they should look out for the hologram, which is scratched to obtain the authentication code of the product. This can be sent via SMS or voice call for confirmation of the product’s authenticity.
I will advise all our customers to use that to confirm the authentication of the product and I assure them that all our products are of high quality and proven efficacy.