Stakeholders Chart Path to Navigate Economic Headwinds in Pharma Industry

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…As NAIP holds 2024 Economic Outlook, CEOs Forum

L-R: Senior Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca –Cola Nigeria Limited, Pharm. Amaka Onyemelukwe; CEO, XLR8, Pharm. Calixthus Okoruwa; MD/CEO, JNC International Ltd, Pharm Clare Omatseye; former MD/CEO May & Baker and former DG Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Dr Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu; PSN President, Professor Cyril Usifoh; NAIP Chairman, Pharm. Ken Onuegbu; Group CEO, Hazon Holdings and Founder, Eko Innovation Centre NG, Pharm. Gbenga Afolabi; MD/CEO, Ecomed Pharma Ltd, Pharm. Chrisopher Ekene Aguolu and Technical Director, Swiss Pharma Nigeria, Pharm. Yetunde O. Adigun, at the NAIP 2024 Economic Outlook and CEO Forum recently.

Stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry on Wednesday, 6 March, assembled in Lagos to discuss strategies needed to navigate the current economic headwinds that is ravaging not only the pharma industry but the entire sector in Nigeria.

The gathering was the 2024 Economic Outlook and CEO Forum of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP). According to the chairman of the programme planning committee, who is the Managing Director of May & Baker PLC, Pharm. Patrick Ajah, the association holds the forum to enable industry players to utilise strategies that will be shared by resource persons to improve the trajectory of their business for the rest of the year.

The theme of the event was “Navigating through the strong economic headwinds in Nigeria”. The chairman of NAIP, Pharm. Ken Onuegbu, stated that the economic situation of the country in the past few months has been worrisome and alarming, adding that the situation has affected pharma business negatively in many ways.

He restated the position of the association, saying achieving medicine security is the best way to go for Nigeria, by moving away from consumption economy to a production economy, where more than 70 per cent of drug needs in the country is produced within the country; hence the Nigerian government needs to genuinely support the industry to be able to achieve the goal.

Speaking at the programme, the Chairman of the occasion, a former MD/CEO of May & Baker Nigeria Plc and former Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu, noted that the situation the pharma industry and the entire nation is now is unprecedented. He averred that there is need for political will to develop the pharmaceutical industry, adding that the government needs to support the industry not only in the area of regulation but also building of infrastructure and protection.

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R-L: Pharm.(Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi, Pharmanews publisher; fFrmer
President of PSN, Pharm. Ahmed Yakassai; Former MD/CEO, May & Baker and former DG Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Dr Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu; MD/CEO, Alpha Pharmacy, Pharm. Ikechukwu Onyechi and other participants at the NAIP 2024 Economic Outlook and CEO Forum recently.

Dr Odumodu stated that the pharmaceutical industry is underperforming and it can do better, noting that if the industry is doing well, more foreign exchange will be generated into the country and it will ease the pressure on naira, adding that drug security is as important as food security.

Also speaking at the forum, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Professor Cyril Usifoh, noted that the pharmaceutical industry is indispensable. He charged stakeholders in the industry to control the economic headwinds in the country to their favour.

A former President of PSN, Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, described the current economic turbulence as an unfortunate one. He urged players in the industry to consider merger where necessary, saying merger is not weakness but a strategy.

The Chief Executive Officer, Business School Netherlands, Prof. Lere Baale, noted that though there are challenges bedeviling the industry, he acknowledged that there are opportunities in challenges. He charged stakeholders to be innovative and collaborative.

While speaking during the keynote address, titled “Navigating through the strong economic headwinds in Nigeria: Strategies for success in the pharmaceutical industry”, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Hazon Holdings and Founder, Eko Innovation Centre NG, Pharm. Gbenga Afolabi, charged pharmacists to adjust their operations and strategies to enable them navigate the current challenging economic conditions in the country.

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Pharm. Afolabi noted that the global economic growth is expected to slow down in 2024 with a forecast of 2.1 per cent, as predicted by the World Bank and the International monetary Fund. He said the monetary policy in Nigeria in 2024 will be tightened owing to high interest rates, which could dampen economic activities and make it difficult for businesses to borrow. He added that inflation is expected to remain high in 2024 which could reduce consumers’ purchasing power and reduce investment.

According to Afolabi, while Nigeria's pharma market is expected to experience strong growth and reach 262 million by 2030, thereby becoming the world's fifth world population of 400 million by 2050, fake and adulterated pharma products will be on the rise because the genuine branded products will be very expensive. He added that the cost of transporting and distributing pharma products will be higher and pharma companies may not use sales reps again because doing so will be at higher cost.

According to him, some of the adaptation strategies that will enable players to navigate the heavy headwinds include agility and resilience, diversification of product offerings, innovation and leveraging technologies.

While speaking at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, JNC International Limited, Pharm. Clare Omatseye, who was the rapporteur and coordinating analyst of the panel session, noted that the current economic challenges in Nigeria can be seen as headwinds and it can also be seen as tailwinds, depending on the way the CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry see it.

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Pharm. Omatseye stated that COVID-19 experience has shown how important drug security is. She noted that foreign direct investment is good but domestic investment is very critical at this point in time in the country. She said now is the time for government to support the industry and encourage local investment and local drug manufacturing. He also charged players to rise up to face the task ahead.

The Senior Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca–Cola Nigeria Limited, Pharm. Amaka Onyemelukwe, during the panel session, noted that there is huge potential for local companies, stressing that the pharma industry is an essential sector that deserves huge protection from the government. She however charged the local pharma companies to concentrate on optimisation, noting that data optimisation and outsourcing will enhance efficiency.

The CEO, XLR8, Pharm. Calixthus Okoruwa, during the panel session urged the Nigerian government to put the right policy in place that will favour and positively turn around the pharmaceutical industry. He however urged stakeholders in the industry to provide the needed idea and data to the government as a guide to create policy.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ecomed Pharma Ltd, Pharm. Chrisopher Ekene Aguolu, who was also one of the panelists pointed out that the industry urgently needs government patronage.

The Technical Director, Swiss Pharma Nigeria, Pharm. Yetunde O. Adigun, stated the need for the government to support the industry and encourage local investment in the pharma industry. She urged local pharma companies to improve and also invest in technology transfer as well as internal data.

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