Pharm Bankole Ezebuilo is a consummate businessman in the pharmaceutical industry within and outside Nigeria. As managing director of Kayhelt Pharma, he is passionate about ensuring the availability of quality drugs to all Nigerians. In this exclusive interview with ADEBAYO OLADEJO and PATRICK IWELUNMOR, he talks about what government must do to create the enabling environment for pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria to thrive and deliver top quality medicines. Excerpts:
Who is Bankole Ezebuilo?
Bankole Aminu Ezebuilo is a graduate of pharmacy from the University of Jos. I have a master’s degree in Business Administration and a postgraduate diploma in Conflict Management and peace studies. I am also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School and Strathmore Business School. I have done marketing and sales training in and out of the country. I am the chief executive officer of Kayhelt Pharma and Promedix. I also double as chairman of Caretec Limited and Everwatch Securities.
In 2018, I was a member of the Conference Planning Committee for the Oluyole 2018 PSN Conference in Ibadan, Oyo State. I was the CPC chairman of the Crocodile City 2019 PSN Conference in Kaduna.
I am presently the 2nd vice-chairman of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP). I am a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, a Catholic Knight of St. John international. I am married to Engr. Mrs Uzoamaka Bankole Ezebuilo and we are blessed with four beautiful kids.
Can you share with us the vision of Kayhelt Pharma in the Nigerian pharmaceutical landscape?
A tree doesn’t make a forest. Kayhelt’s vision is to build a network of field men and women and together create mutual and enduring value. This will lead us to the ultimate vision which is to be one of Africa’s leading pharmaceutical firms.
Would you say your company is making the desired impact in terms of making quality drugs available to Nigerians?
Kayhelt is synonymous with quality. What we do, we do well. For the past 15 years, Kayhelt has impacted very well in the society in ensuring that patients get top-quality products at affordable prices. Delivering quality products at an affordable rate is also part of the vision of the company.
Tell us about some of your flagship products and how well they are doing in the market.
Some of our flagship products, Zoleric (Esomeprazole), Sflox (Levofloxacin), and Itracap (Itraconazole), can be said to be the second in the Nigerian market after the originator brand. They are widely accepted and are doing well in the market.
In the ophthalmic industry, Kayhelt has made a tremendous impact in providing ophthalmic diagnostics for ophthalmic surgeries that are not readily available in the market.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing in Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges. What do you think should be done by stakeholders to mitigate these challenges?
The right government policy will support the manufacturing sector to thrive. For drugs we can manufacture in Nigeria, government policy on importation of that particular molecule should be in place. There should be easy access to forex to import APIs, equipment, implementation of tax holiday, not overtaxing the manufacturing sector and the synergy of government agencies, such as the Customs, NAFDAC, PCN, NDLEA and the CBN. These will ease the bottlenecks businesses endure working with these agencies, and assuage the stress of accessing loan facilities from the Bank of Industry and commercial banks.
Also, there must be a collaboration between pharma industries in Nigeria, such that there will be local contract manufacturing and coming together to procure APIs in bulk. This also will reduce the cost of procurement which consequently will be more profitable and more affordable to the final consumers.
Despite the efforts of NAFDAC and PCN, fake and substandard drugs still flood the local market. What do you think is the problem and how can it be tackled?
The fake and substandard drug issue is a global menace; it is not peculiar to Nigeria. NAFDAC and PCN are doing their best on the matter, considering Nigeria’s porous borders. Pharmacists must dominate the pharma space, from manufacturing, importation and distribution to dispensing. This will go a long way in mitigating these challenges. Coordinated wholesale Drug Centres should be a top priority that will help tackle this problem.
Brain drain is the order of the day. Nigerian pharmacists are migrating to foreign countries for better opportunities and the promise of a better life. Government and PSN should be working to stop the trend.
If the government creates an enabling environment, professionals can travel to further their education, gain experience and will be eager to come home to practise. Pharmacists in the diaspora will be ready to invest both money and knowledge in the country.
The 95th PSN conference has come and gone. What are your observations in terms of organisation and impact in the pharmaceutical industry?
The conference was well attended, contrary to popular opinion. The CPC and LOC worked very hard to deliver a good conference. Kayhelt also treated pharmacists to the best gala night in the history of PSN conferences.
Our president, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, did so much to see that his first conference was a success. Knowledge was updated, relaxation was achieved and businesses were transacted. I think it was a time well spent for all the attendees.
What is the biggest challenge your company is facing in terms of meeting up with the drug needs of Nigerians and what do you think should be done to help on the part of the government?
Access to and availability of forex is a major barrier to providing essential drugs. Fluctuation of forex and the high debt profile of government agencies to pharma industries also impact on the industry negatively. If we have access to forex, a stable exchange rate, and if the federal and state government hospitals and agencies pay pharma companies on time, it will go a long way to ensure drug sufficiency in the country.
Any advice for pharmaceutical companies in the face of the economic challenges facing the country?
I will advise everyone to remain calm and focused; take the calculated risk and try as much as possible to remain afloat. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.