Drug Security: Why Nigeria Must Boost Local Production

October 6, 2020
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BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja

The COVD-19 pandemic has brought to fore the vulnerability of Nigeria as concern medicines security. This has also heightened the call for the country to begin to look inward by investing in its pharmaceutical industry.

With 70 per cent of medicines (drugs) in the country being imported, stakeholders worry that Nigeria may not be able to overcome drug insecurity or attain self-sufficiency in drug production in the near future.

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Meanwhile, the minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, recently urged the pharmaceutical sector to refocus the various aspects of the profession to meet up with the present realities, saying “The inability of the nation to meet its need of simple things such as face masks, surgical gloves, plaster, cotton bandage, and other related items must be addressed.

“It is therefore paramount that the profession of pharmacy in Nigeria immediately start to think of new ways of doing things; a situation where the focus is on importation of finished products and compounding of raw materials is clearly not acceptable.”

He said strategies must be developed to utilise local resources for the production of pharmaceutical raw materials, (both excipients and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). “Our maize, yam, cassava, fruits and many others that go into waste due to poor storage need to be put into meaningful use for the pharmaceutical industry; the nation vast petroleum resources need to be also exploited.

“Players in the profession and the pharmaceutical industry need to think of bigger things, they must dream dreams and build real pharmaceutical entities that will meet the expectation of the nation.

“Entrepreneurs need to pool resources in order to be strong and big enough to be able to dabble into the very competitive global market; experience from the Europe and America clearly show that this is the way forward,” he stressed.                            

The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) was established in 1987 and became operational in 1989 with the mandate of carrying on drug research and development component of health interventions to improve medicine security and health outcomes. The institute is to work on drug discovery from conventional protocols as well as phytomedicine development.

However, the institute has decried what it described as poor funding for research activities while blaming its major setback since its creation over 30 years ago on lack of funds.

The Chairman, Governing Board of NIPRD, Dr. John Alfa, therefore, called for better structured government funding of the institute’s Research and development (R&D).

He made the call during a webinar conference organised by the director general of NIPRD, Dr. Obi Adigwe.

He said “Since inception, the government has mainly been responsible for funding NIPRD through the instrumentality of yearly appropriation of the parliament.

“A major constrain is the envelope phenomena of the supervising ministry that whatever your proposed internal budget may be, it would be cut to size by the envelope concept (you receive a fixed amount).

“There is the need for better structured government funding of NIPRD Research and Development. Structures are dilapidated, equipment are lacking or non-functional due to lack of maintenance, inadequate fund for procurement of chemicals, reagents and other consumables. Others include inadequate manpower development or capacity building, etc,” he explained.

According to him, lack of research and development funding has resulted in “Poor performance in drug discovery (synthetic or phytopharmaceuticals) API and excipient development, poor intervention in pandemics, low turnout of phytomedicines. Not much has been done in drug distribution, and public health risk analysis.”

He stressed that the institute has hitherto faced great and dangerous infrastructural deficit as well as gross funding inadequacy for R&D.

“There is lack of advanced biosafety laboratory such as P3 nor P4 level laboratory, poor power supply which frustrates experimental or research works,” said Alfa.

Earlier, the Chairman, PMG-MAN, Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, said available evidence suggest that local production of medicines can help sustain access to high quality pharmaceutical products, improve the health of the citizenry and at the same time prevent the shortage of supply of medicines during critical period.

According to him, “The pharmaceutical sector still remains largely untapped and continues to suffer neglect. The ever-increasing demand for medicines and other pharmaceutical products will continue to remain an advantage to domestic producers as well as an opportunity for growth and development in the pharmaceutical industrial sector.

“NIPRD if adequately funded can develop strategies that Nigeria Pharma can leverage upon to improve the sector.”

Ayebae stressed that the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the provision of safe, pure, quality and efficacious products to meet the healthcare need of the populace cannot be over-emphasized, adding that the Provision of essential medicines by the sector would curb infiltration of the market with spurious and substandard products and would also enhance the economy as well as sustain Medicine Security.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chain management in different sector including pharmaceutical supply. Nigeria currently rely so much on importation of pharmaceutical products as about 70 per cent of medicines used in the country are imported.

“In the first revised National Drug Policy 2005, it was anticipated that by 2008, the local pharmaceutical industry would have realised a production capacity of 70 per cent to satisfy at least 60 per cent of national drug requirements of essential drugs, while the balance was to be exported.

“Consequently, a number of essential drugs that the local manufacturing industry has the capacity to produce, have been put on import prohibition list to encourage the local manufacture and improve on the capacity utilisation of sector (NCS, 2014). The Presidential Executive Order 003 in 2017 also directs MDA’s to have minimum of 40 per cent procurement of pharmaceuticals from local companies. All these policy interventions if well implemented would have greatly enhanced the capacity of the Pharma in Nigeria.

“It is imperative to state that the high cost of imported basic machinery and equipment; in addition to high taxations, tariff, high cost of production, poor intervention funding and the prolonged lack of infrastructural development, all cumulatively continue to impede growth in the pharmaceutical industrial sector and make it almost impossible to produce medicines that can compete with imported products.”

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