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Medicines’ security: Consolidating health access gains and catalysing national development in 2018

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Chairman of PMGMAN, Dr. Okey Akpa

The recent reprioritisation of American Policy has identified Economic Security as critical to America’s National Security. Although perceived by some as controversial, keen strategists and policy analysts have lauded the move as a strategic realignment of contributory dimensions based on contextual priorities, domestic vulnerabilities and national values. For the better part of a decade, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN) has formally advocated the concept of Medicines’ Security. Simply put, the Medicines’ Security Concept argues that unless a people exert sufficient control over how their medicines and healthcare commodities are produced, sustainable access to relevant, affordable, high quality products cannot be guaranteed in that setting.

Currently, the dependence on importation for majority of our healthcare needs is unsustainable and exponentially increases Nigeria’s exposure to practices such as dumping and counterfeiting. More importantly however, the Status Quo poses a great but yet to be addressed National Security risk. The Nation’s recent experiences with Ebola and Meningitis are mere footnotes compared to future disastrous consequences that can emanate from a lack of engagement with this issue.

As well as guaranteeing sustainable access to medicines for Nigerians, controlling medicines’ supply by local production also enables other critical aspects of Nation building. Development of local capacity and boosting the national economy are two of many strategic outcomes from this engagement. However, of particular importance in the current setting, is the potential that local Pharma manufacturing has, to create jobs, which can help address, the rapidly increasing unemployment in the Country. Recent empirical evidence indicates that for every job created in the Pharma manufacturing sector, close to ten other jobs are created in affiliated industries. Within the industry, PMGMAN has already begun to deliberately use this strategy to ensure the relevant backward integration of various critical inputs for local Pharma.

Other additional benefits of promoting the local industry include the great potential to boost exports and earn FOREX. Currently, even without a coordinated policy, a number of PMGMAN members have commenced exportation of made-in-Nigeria medicines. This not only aids the balancing of Government’s overall trade deficit, it can also be leveraged as a tool for Economic and Social diplomacy.

Furthermore, with the highest number of companies and international quality accreditations the Nigerian Pharma manufacturing sector currently holds the prime position for assuming the continental Pharma manufacturing hub. For the uninitiated, this is a market estimated to hit a whopping $50 billion in a few years. Nigeria’s current vantage position is however being fast eroded. Recently, Ethiopia has put together a plan for the development of a Local Pharma Manufacturing Sector expected to replicate the success of Ethiopian Airlines’ success story in Aviation.

At a recent meeting attended by one of us in Addis Ababa, a cornucopia of Government incentives was revealed by Experts that developed the Ethiopian plan. It was further revealed that the Project Director for the Ethiopia Pharma manufacturing plan reports directly to President Desalegn. This is an indication that the Ethiopian Government attributes the highest priority for this project.

Similarly, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo Addo whose legendary speech on the need to build local capacity in Africa recently ignited debate on the Internet has also prioritised local Pharma manufacturing. His Executive Instrument (No. 181) has now banned the importation of 49 pharmaceutical products to enable Ghanaian manufacturers dominate local markets and stimulate export to neighbouring countries. In the same vein, the Moroccan and Algerian Local Pharma Industry now supply close to 100 per cent of their national drug needs and are being incentivized by their governments to export to the rest of Africa. Fresh intelligence indicates that even the incoming Ramaphosa administration in South Africa plans to prioritise local Pharma manufacturing.

Although the current Government has begun to recognize the importance of local Pharma manufacturing, 2018 now presents an opportunity to consolidate these gains. Specific areas for attention include patronage, smart protection as well as robust engagement with the group to develop a framework of incentives and practices that will achieve great outcomes in all relevant thematic areas. Credit also goes to other stakeholders who have recognized the utility of the emergent concept. Noteworthy is the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) who recently convened a colloquium underpinned by the Medicines’ Security Concept. A few Development Partners such as UNICEF and CHAI have also remained strong advocates of local Pharma manufacturing. As the initiators of the medicines’ security concept, we must however caution fidelity to the original model, as any discombobulation is likely to water down the various relevant outcomes.

As policy and management strategy experts we now advise an expeditious, deliberate and aggressive mainstreaming of local Pharma manufacturing, as a means of achieving Medicines’ Security. In our view, this is the most efficient and effective strategy for ensuring the highest quality health care for Nigerians, while at the same time, boosting relevant aspects of economic and national development.

*Dr. Akpa is the Chairman of PMGMAN while Dr. Adigwe is the Executive Secretary of PMGMAN


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