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Coronavirus may spur drugs, medical supplies shortage in Nigeria

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Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa

Medical experts have warned that there may be shortage of essential drugs and medical supplies in the country due to the global spread of Coronavirus. They, however, said the development of the petrochemical sector would have prevented over-dependence on imported raw materials for local production of drugs, adding that about 90 percent of materials needed to produce medicines locally were sourced from petrochemicals and plants.

The medical experts said the country losses $1 billion yearly to other nations because no local drug manufacturing company or their products are pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to supply the medicines the agency uses in the country.

The Guardian learnt that both local drug manufacturers and importers in the country depend heavily on China for raw materials or finished products.It was also learnt that several of the facilities in China are adversely affected by the epidemic and their employees have taken a hit from the outbreak, including employees being quarantined.

The medical experts are, Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Elijah Mohammed; Executive Secretary, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Frank Muonemeh; President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, and Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye.

Also, while attention has been on China for signs that COVID-19 might result in drug shortages, India, which accounts for about 70 per cent of generic drugs used in Nigeria, especially the Anti Retro Viral (ARV) drug for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), has halted exports of over two dozens Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and drugs.

Also, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade yesterday announced that it was restricting 26 APIs and formulations until further notice. They range from paracetamol-the ingredient in Tylenol-to antivirals like acyclovir for treating shingles and antibiotic neomycin.

Mohammed told The Guardian, “We are faced by two big problems-drug shortage and Coronavirus. Most of the drugs in the country either source all their main ingredients or finished products from China. Most of the raw materials imported for local drug manufacturing are sourced from petrochemical industries in China and India.

“We would have prevented drug shortage if we had developed the country’s petrochemical industry, because a developed petrochemical sector will provide 90 per cent of import-dependent products locally and save the country foreign exchange.”Petrochemicals (also known as petroleum distillates) are chemical products obtained from petroleum by refining just as some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as maize, palm fruit or sugar cane.

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