By Chioma Obinna
Worried about the present state of the country’s pharmaceutical sector, community pharmacists have urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the industry even as they called for bailout fund for local pharmaceutical manufacturers to save the sector from imminent collapse.
The pharmacists are also demanding for a substantive Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to cushion the effects of recession since the industry is largely import-dependent both for finished goods and raw inputs.
Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Lagos State Association of Community Pharmacists, ACPN, the State Chairman, Pharm. Abiola Paul-Ozieh, who lamented the untold effects of the exchange rate on the pharmaceutical industry said: “Many multinationals are leaving, thus the industry and the consuming public were faced with the challenges of availability, accessibility and affordability.”
According to her, unless the Nigerian pharma industry transits towards domestic value creation through investment in Drug Research and Strategic partnership in local manufacturing of raw materials there is no way manufacturing and supply of essential medicines can be achieved on a sustainable basis.
“At a time like this, the government should realize the need to begin to address the essence for self reliance in medicines manufacturing as espoused in the National Drug Policy.
“The need for building of a viable petrochemical industry in Nigeria for the production of raw materials and packaging materials cannot be overemphasized,” she added.
Lamenting the dissolution of the Board of Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria for over 18 months, Paul-Ozieh said each time Boards of health professionals are dissolved it brings about setbacks to the operations of respective council.
Calling for a bailout fund for the industry, Paul-Ozieh said there should be a kind of soft landing for those bringing in active materials, active ingredients.
“There has been 100 or 200 per cent increase on essential drugs since the inception of the recession. Our government need to wake up and begin to address issues of infrastructure like electricity. They should be able to do a kind of bailout fund for the pharmaceutical sector such that the manufacturers and those importing essential drugs that cannot easily be produced in Nigeria would have easy access to forex and then they can bring in the active materials as well as finished products.
In a chat with Good Health Weekly, Lagos State Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Pharm. Gbenga Olubowale said currently many products now find their way to Nigeria without due process.
Olubowale who regretted that the country now import as simple as paracetamol despite the fact that the country has the capacity to produce it said agencies like NAFDAC that have the mandate to safeguard the health of the nation must rise to the occasion.
“It’s unfortunate, that we are becoming dumping ground, somebody somewhere needs to rise up and do the work.”
Olubowale said the situation makes it even difficult for the patients to access healtcare, hence, they begin to patronise herbs which may create more health problems for the country.
“Let players in the sector have easy access to forex so that we can be able to bring in genuine materials. To do this, we need a substantive Director General of NAFDAC that can take some certain decisions.
“If we have a person that is working, then all the departments there, will begin to work, they will sit up, they are not rising up to the occasion, they can do more to safeguard the health of the people of the nation.”
Former Chairman, ACPN Lagos, Pharm. Abdulsalam – Yinka, who noted that currently Nigerians depend on importation to satisfy 70 per cent of drugs need, said government must encourage the industry so more drugs are manufactured locally.
Abdulsalami -Yinka stressed the need for NAFDAC to revisit some alleged registered products because “it is possible to have fake versions of the ones that have been registered”.