Saturday, 30th September 2023

Experts lament Nigeria’s spending of N800b to import malaria drugs, antibiotics

By Silver Nwokoro
30 March 2023   |   4:03 am
Experts have lamented that over N800 billion is spent on the importation of malaria drugs, antibiotics and vaccines yearly, despite having sizeable number of manufacturing companies in the country.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Oyo-State, Pharm. Olubamiwo Adeosun (left); Chairman St. Racheal’s Pharma, Pharm. Akinjide Adeosun; Deputy Governor, Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku; Executive Director Megamound Investment, Mrs Desiree Osunsina and Managing Director, Jay Kay Pharmacy, Pharm. Jimi Agbaje at the fifth anniversary of St. Racheal’s Pharma in Lagos.

Experts have lamented that over N800 billion is spent on the importation of malaria drugs, antibiotics and vaccines yearly, despite having sizeable number of manufacturing companies in the country.

They said this puts the country’s over 200 million people at risk of epidemics, as its local manufacturing capacity caters for only 30 per cent of the country’s needs.

The government and private sector experts stated this yesterday at the fifth anniversary of St. Racheal’s Pharma and launch of its new product, Azithromycin, in Lagos. Theme of the event is ‘Manufacturing Renaissance: A Must for Prosperity in Nigeria.’

Deputy Governor of Imo State, Placid Njoku, noted that Nigeria, with its huge population, depends on India, China, Germany, United States, Pakistan and Netherlands for 70 per cent of its drug needs, spending billions of naira.

He lamented that despite a large pharmaceutical subsector with at least 100 manufacturing companies, Nigeria caters for only 30 per cent of local medical needs, which leads to high importation of drugs and exposure to counterfeit drugs.

Njoku said the country imports over N200 billion of malaria drugs and about N600 billion of antibiotics every year, adding that in one quarter of 2021, it imported about N395 billion worth of antibiotics to battle diseases associated with COVID-19.

According to him, the total amount the country spends on importing drugs exposes it to international drug risks, while essentially funding the pharmaceutical industry of other countries across the world.

There are many herbs, he noted, that could serve as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), which make up majority of the over 70 per cent of imported drugs, while urging local manufacturing companies to leverage it and make the country a less import dependent country.

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, May & Baker Nigeria, Patrick Ajah, lamented the major challenges of pharmaceutical manufacturers, which include poor power supply, as over N250 million is spent monthly on power generation.

He also listed high interest rates, regulations, policies, extortion of companies by government agencies and poor infrastructure.

The country needs to find other ways to participate in global economy, especially as it has signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), he asserted, adding that local pharmaceutical production could help the vulnerable population gain access to quality medicine, as seen during COVID-19.

According to Ajah, there are about 115 local pharmaceutical manufacturers taking care of the drug needs of less than 40 per cent of the country’s population, compared to India that has about 3,000 registered pharmaceutical companies and over 10,500 manufacturing sites.

“If we don’t build our manufacturing sector, other countries will come and claim it from us by building their facility and taking the money back to develop their countries,” he warned.

Former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jimi Agbaje, advocated favourable government policies and enabling environment to make not only the pharmaceutical sector, but also other sectors of the economy, thrive and prosperous in the country.

Microsoft Country Manager for Nigeria and Ghana, Mrs. Olatomiwa Williams, said Nigeria needed to leverage technology to drive the manufacturing sector, as it will help drive sustainability and create jobs for the teeming youths.

Speaking on ‘Manufacturing Renaissance: Technology as an Enabler’, Williams urged pharmaceutical industry to adopt technology tools such as Artificial Intelligent (AI), analytic and cloud for data to drive the manufacturing process.