Mr Jagdish “Jack” Bhojwani is the managing director of Sankil Pharmaceuticals Limited, which specialises in supplying APIs, excipients and packaging materials for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with ADEBAYO OLADEJO, he shares his thoughts on the challenges facing pharmaceutical manufacturing firms in the country as well as the mission of Sankil to be a “one-stop shop for the Nigerian pharma industry”. Excerpts:
Tell us about Sankil Pharmaceuticals Limited. When was it established, and what are your objectives in Nigeria?
Sankil Pharmaceuticals has over the years made a name for itself and has emerged as a one-stop shop for manufacturers in the country. The company is being run by me and Mr Rajesh Jajodia, as the managing directors. It was established in 2008 and it started out with the objective of facilitating local purchase of APIs for the Nigerian pharma industry.
We used our traditionally strong sourcing and buying network which had been supplying the Indian and international markets for long and the local experience gleaned from our long existence in other businesses in Nigeria to create a compelling proposition for our customers.
You have been in Nigeria for the past 12 years. Tell us about your experience in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry and market.
The Nigerian pharma industry comprises a large segment that imports finished formulations in the country. This has driven prices down and made medicines affordable for the masses. However, consistency of availability and quality is a major concern. Moreover, it has also added to the issues facing local manufacturing.
In the past, efforts had been made to give a fillip to local manufacturing and, thus, there is today a sizeable section of the market that is catered for by local manufacturers. The recent re-emphasis on local manufacturing, with establishment of modern protocols and procedures, is a step in the right direction to take Nigerian pharma manufacturing into a new age.
Some degree of protection and encouragement too will help. The recent CBN intervention fund is a significant booster for upgrading of facilities and equipment. Those with vision can utilise this opportunity to establish a firm base for future operations and help consolidate their companies.
Part of your mandate is to be a total pharma outsourcing company and to cater for the demand of pharma raw material requirements in Nigeria. How do you ensure your raw materials are of a good quality comparable to the imported ones from Europe and Asia?
We are a one-stop shop for the Nigerian pharma industry and we supply APIs, general and Beta lactams, anti–fungals among others. We also supply excipients, such as talcs, starches and other binders, flow improvers and coating materials, empty hard capsule shells, bottles, caps, blister foil, alu alu foil, droppers, measuring cups, among others. In fact, we supply everything to make a pharma product.
And there is no difference between the raw materials we source for Nigeria and those that are supplied to pharma companies in India, Turkey, USA and other countries. We are able to supply all types from the most reputable manufacturers in the world. We have the ability to source very large and complex requirements to very small and specialised ones. Our 3500 square meters storage facility is up-to-date, adhering to all conditions required for storage of APIs and other raw materials.
Are there local regulatory protocols you adhere to in your operations and are you regulated by NAFDAC?
There are regulatory protocols governing every aspect of pharma supply chain. As per pharma sourcing chain, our operations are under the National Agency for Food and Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC), regulations. Besides NAFDAC, there are other institutions such as the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Customs, and others that oversee certain aspects of our operations and we adhere to all documentation and regulatory compliances.
Are there specific advantages for local pharmaceutical manufacturers that choose to buy APIs and other pharmaceutical raw materials locally, rather than import them?
As a service organisation, Sankil is committed to being one step ahead in terms of favourable business terms. As a Nigerian company, Sankil Pharma offers sale of its products in naira.
In a market short of availability of forex, we free up the financial resources of the customer to a large extent. The customers can place multiple orders at one source and be sure of getting a good price. It saves time and reduces delivery and documentation time for them. It’s simpler doing business with us.
We have a dedicated team for sales, logistics and documentation at Sankil. This smoothens orders, deliveries and inward receipts, which is a significant advantage.
COVID-19 seems to have come to stay. What do you think countries in Africa, especially, should do to win the war against the pandemic?
The NCDC is doing a commendable job, compared to many others – even some more advanced countries. The frontline workers are at work and battling it out it. But more is needed – more workers, more kits, more hours for testing and more labs where the samples can be sent.
This is an opportunity to set up clinics across the country to deal with such diseases. In fact along with the pandemic, Nigeria also saw an outbreak of Lassa fever and a good network of laboratories can serve as the frontline against such pandemics.
Education about masks through communication and punitive fines is in place – so, that should also help. Focus should be on how to wear it instead of just making it mandatory. A mask in the pocket or on the chin is as useful as no mask at all.
What’s your message to the pharma sector as the company plans to further break into the sector?
Focus on manufacturing more at home. We are here to support you, not just with our supply chain or with our engineering partners, or packaging partners but we also work to provide technical support for new drug development and technology transfer, Dossier building, regulatory filing trainings and whatever is needed to expand your portfolio.
We look forward to a robust pharma manufacturing sector, with a variety of products supplied, at least, all over West Africa; as well as increasing ECOWAS cooperation and reducing dependence on imports.
A strong Nigerian pharma manufacturing sector can be a pillar of the Nigerian economy and can help reduce healthcare costs further, besides providing gainful employment to trained youth.