‘IP Infringement Has Compromised Patient’s Safety In Nigeria’

January 4, 2021
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BY MARK ITSIBOR, Abuja

Stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector of the Nigerian economy have raised the alarm over the rising spate of intellectual property infringement in the sector, saying it has seriously impacted the nation’s economy and local manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. They therefore demand the review of intellectual property laws to deal with the issue of infringement and boost production of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.

The stakeholders say intellectual property infringement has negatively impacted the economy, even as it is a major challenge to the development of the sector – making Nigeria a dumping ground for fake or adulterated drugs, a situation they say compromise the safety of patients.

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The health experts made the call during a stakeholders’ virtual discussion on intellectual property infringement in the pharmaceutical sector organized by the American Business Council in partnership with IPLAN and USPTO.

One of the guest speakers at the event, Otu Ukoyen said Nigeria needs to have a national stakeholders’ forum to develop a framework that would be implemented, especially as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) commences “so that we can be better positioned – as a country to take advantage of the agreement.”

Ukoyen said there is need for a new IP policy to improve existing IP laws, with the aim of cutting cost of local production of pharmaceutical products. “The foundation of the policy is to assure that federal government recognises the importance of IP,” he stated, adding: “federal government has paid lips service to IP. Government has to recognise its importance and the role it plays in driving the economy.”

Ukoyen noted that copy right Bill that has been with the National Assembly is a major frustration for the seamless operation of pharmaceutical companies and the supply chain.

On his part, Chukwuemeka Ubaka noted that the theft of intellectual property and dumping of cheap drugs are two major threats to pharmaceutical sector.

Ubaka said, “We are not ready, but on the way to readiness. As Nigeria, we still not produce 1 per cent of generic medicines. India produces over 10%. Nigeria today cannot produce Paracetamol with less than N50. We need the technology to produce medicine. We need to start adopting new business models. We need to stop thinking traditional.

Our pharmaceutical sectors need to be able to move to Uganda, South Africa to produce drugs from there to be able to sell at cheaper rate.”

He maintained that enforcement of intellectual property laws must be taken seriously to discourage counterfeiting. “I think enforcement is also very important. Invoke and enforce these laws,” Ubaka added.

Similarly, Stephen Ubimagwu said government needs to think of  how to avoid making Nigeria a dumping ground for fake drugs, save the sector from plagiarism to outright counterfeit, while stressing the need to improve the pharmaceutical supply chain capacity.

The experts say government has to start setting up structures to increase local manufacturing of drugs.

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