*Ohuabunwa unveils seven point agenda to boost health services
*PMGMAN seeks N300b pharma manufacturers expansion fund
*PSN inaugurates new President, inducts new fellows on Jan 24
*Urges Buhari to curb medicines abuse, assent Pharmacists Council Bill

Pharmacists have made recommendations on how to increase local production of essential medicines and boost drug security in the country.

Newly elected President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, and Chairman Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr. Okey Akpa, yesterday, in Lagos, at a press briefing on presidential inauguration of Ohuabunwa and fellowship investiture said the Federal Government should target pharmaceutical manufacturing to achieve drug security.

Akpa is also the Chairman of the Inauguration and Investiture Committee and Chief Executive of SKG Pharmaceuticals. The event is scheduled for Thursday January 24, 2019 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja

They said that the country should increase local production of essential drugs from the present 40 to 45 per cent to at least 75 per cent to ensure drug security.

They call on the Federal Government to approve a N300 billion pharmaceutical manufacturers expansion fund that will ensure that stakeholders have enough funds to improve their facilities to meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prequalification and standard.

Ohuabunwa said it is easier to import drugs than to produce and that the input into local manufacturing is still low.

The pharmacist said support for local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and active ingredients tops his seven point agenda to improve health delivery in the country.

The other agenda, according to Ohuabunwa include: Provide framework towards improved health care outcome in our health facilities and country at large; ensure the proper integration of pharmaceutical care in all aspects of pharmaceutical services in Nigeria; facilitate the smooth take off of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG); promote equity and fair play, team work and proper remuneration of pharmacists in public and private sectors.

Others are to: advocate for the signing into law the Pharmacy Law, which will strengthen all aspects of pharmacy services; and ensure 100 per cent internship placement for new pharmacy graduates.

Ohuabunwa said: “We can all agree that our country will fare better if we take control of drugs and medicines as it is done in civilized climes of the world.

“The carefree attitude with which drugs have been handled have resulted in the hydra headed monster of drugs and substance abuse, and we are struggling today to take control.

“If nothing is done, our security indices, which presently is frightening may worsen and the entire security fabric of our nation may collapse.”

Ohuabunwa gave reasons why there is reduction in local production of drugs: “Policy reversals and inconsistency in government policies. There is also the issue of corruption and import duties that favour drug importers instead of producers. Government preaches what it does not practice. They must patronize made in Nigeria drugs and use them.

Besides policy inconsistency, there are also problems of poor infrastructure, lack of patronage for local products and uncontrolled market space. We are still importing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) like grain starch, colourant, additives and so on. These are things we have capacity to produce.”

The pharmacist said the society plans to work with the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and seek for funds to boost research into local sourcing of APIs.

Akpa said PMG MAN highly appreciates the efforts of the present government under the leadership of President Mohammed Buhari for some key policy interventions that have saved the industry. He said for example the common external tariff (CET) for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ECOWAS CET wish was wrongly applied to the pharma sector was arguably the most unfavourable policy against the pharma manufacturing industry.

Akpa said a situation where finished pharmaceutical products were being imported into the country at a zero duty tariff while manufacturing inputs attracted import duty tariffs ranging from five to 10 per cent and 25 per cent in some cases like hard shell gelatine capsule left manufacturers with no option other than to close the factories and face importation. “Thank God that this anomaly was addressed and we would want to thank the President and urge that this must be sustained.”

The pharmacist said Nigeria must prioritise the local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and treat it as strategic. He explained: “We say so because with a population of over 180 million people and growing at about three per cent, medicine security is must for Nigeria to achieve. The industry apart from playing this key role of guaranteeing access to quality and affordable medicines on a sustainable basis offers one of the most robust value chain. This brings with huge employment opportunities, foreign exchange earning capacity, industrial and economic development.

“We want the industry prioritised just like we have done for agriculture. Both are very closely related and deal with sustainable security of human lives. In doing so, Government should create a comprehensive incentive package targeted specifically at local pharma production. This is where the N300 billion pharma Manufacturing Expansion and Export Fund comes in. We are canvassing for this fund to serve as a catalyst for growth in this industry.

“Every priority industry needs some sort of protection. In this regard, local pharma must be protected to the extent that products that can and are being manufactured locally must be discouraged from importation. This has been done by other African countries including our cousin country Ghana where up to 49 pharmaceutical products are in those import prohibition list. The reasons for this is obvious, they want their local industry to grow, and you can not quarrel with that.”

Akpa said whilst they thank the government for including pharma products in the Executive Order for local patronage, compliance is still very low and impact is minimal. He said other African countries such as Ethiopia have identified pharmaceutical manufacturing as strategic and the industry is being encouraged. Morocco and other North African countries are also focusing on local pharma and it is obvious that Nigeria with the population will be the ‘dumping’ destination if “we do not develop and grow our own local pharma now!”

Akpa assured the government that PMG MAN members, with the critical mass of over 150 factories will deliver if when supported by government. “We can achieve the target of meeting 70 per cent of Nigerian Drug need through local production as stipulated in the National Drug Policy (2005 as amended) in record time if we get the expansion fund,” he said.

Guardian

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