By Sola Ogundipe
The unprecedented increase in prices of medicines required to safeguard healthcare of Nigerians has become a real cause for concern in recent times. Findings from a new independent study however show that high quality made in Nigeria medicines remain more affordable when compared to similar imported brands. A comparative price analysis of local and imported brands of medicines supports this discovery.
For instance, a 5mg tablet 10 x 10 packet of made in Nigeria Glibenclamide, a common antidiabetic costs N900, while the imported brand, Daonil, sells for N3,000. Primprex, a local drug brand used for treatment of respiratory tract infection costs N2,500, while the imported brand, Septrin, sells for N6,000.
Also, a 10×10 tablets packet of locally manufactured antiprotozoal agent, Loxagyl, that contains Metronidazole 400mg , sells for N500, while Flagyl, the imported brand, costs N2,400.
A 6-tablet sachet of popular locally manufactured antimalarial drug, Arthemed, sells for N500, while the imported brand, Co-Artem, that contains the same active ingredient (Arethemeter+Lumefantrine), sells for N1,600.
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The independent study’s findings clearly invalidate the argument that the 20 percent Import Adjustment Tax has any influence on the affordability of medicines for the average Nigerian. Emerging evidence also shows that while there is scarcity of Forex and it is part of the cause of increase in prices of medicines, local manufacturers have been able to absorb some costs, thereby ensuring that made in Nigeria products were still affordable.
Importers of pharmaceutical products on the other hand, simply passed on the costs of Forex and importation to the patients who are at high risk of discontinuing treatment when they are no longer able to afford the high cost of drugs.
In the 2016 Fiscal Policy, Government placed a 20 per cent Import Adjustment Tax on four categories of medicines for which Nigerian manufacturers have more than enough capacity to satisfy local consumption. The move by the Federal Government is not only aimed at ensuring sustainable access to high quality and affordable medicines, but aimed at protecting the local industry, increase employment for Nigerians and attract foreign investment.
Indications from industry experts already suggests that based on the 2016 Fiscal Policy, tmore foreign companies are showing interest in the Nigerian Pharma Sector, as more are seeking to establish new factories, as well as buy into existing ones.
Health policy experts have confirmed that the measures highlighted in the 2016 Fiscal Policy will prevent dumping of drugs from abroad as well as improve sustainable access to medicines, since local capacity will be increased. Evidence also suggests that most fake and counterfeit medicines in Nigeria are imported.