Just In : Presidency orders immediate plan to curb rising drug price
With Nigerians grappling with the skyrocketing cost of essential medicines and struggling to pay out of pocket, President Bola Tinubu has directed an immediate action plan to curb the hike in prices of drugs nationwide.
To facilitate the directive, he said an Executive Order be developed to reduce identified barriers to local drug manufacturing to enable the industry to thrive.
The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare Prof. Ali Pate, disclosed this in Lagos during a meeting with key stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector aimed at exploring ways of addressing myriads of problems confronting the sector, especially hike in prices of drugs.
The meeting, which was organised by the pharma stakeholders enumerated various challenges that have plagued the sector for so many years and hindered it from making progress, and which the minister promised would be addressed by the Federal Government.
The stakeholders listed challenges in foreign exchange, expediting local production, procurement, policy inconsistency & implementation, pharmaceutical manufacturing development funds, and research & development as some of the critical issues begging for urgent attention in the sector.
They also lamented that the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry was heavily import-dependent.
The stakeholders in attendance include chief executive officers of pharmaceutical industries; the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Prof. Moji Adeyeye; President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Prof. Cyril Usifoh and Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Ibrahim Ahmed.
Others are President, Federation of Nigeria Pharmaceutical Industry Associations, Dr. Okey Akpa: Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; Oluwatosin Jolayemi, heads of pharmaceutical groups and professional bodies.
Speaking, Pate said the Federal Government was pursuing pharmaceutical manufacturing and local manufacturing aggressively to ensure that they thrive and Nigerians have access to affordable and safe medicines.
The minister said, “This consultation that we have had is fine and we will have the second consultative forum in three months times.
“As you know, the president has directed that an Executive Order be developed to look into it and will begin to reduce the barriers to local drug manufacturing to enable the industry to thrive.
“And we expect that over time, it will reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals. The rising cost of pharmaceuticals is a major issue that bothers all of us as a government.
“It is not only a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue. In the context of our administration, we are very focused on what we can do to reduce the burden on Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable.
“So, this is a very fruitful consultation that we have had with the industry.”
Experts in the pharmaceutical industry say the massive devaluation of the naira and the unfriendly business environment are adversely affecting Nigeria’s pharmaceutical sector and its profitability.
According to them, instead of the sector improving, things are getting worse as more pharmaceutical companies keep folding up.
Of late, the pharmaceutical industry has been facing a serious crisis, which has been attributed to the country’s harsh business environment occasioned by the paucity of forex, high inflation rate, and high loan interest repayment rate.
In August 2023, British multinational drugmaker and biotechnology company, GlaxoSmithKline, announced its exit from Nigeria.
Earlier, the President, of the Federation of Nigeria Pharmaceutical Industry Associations, Dr. Okey Akpa, while reeling out major problems plaguing the sector, said that despite their continuous efforts to ensure the availability and affordability of effective and safe medicines in Nigeria, the industry was still faced with some challenges that inhibit the expected growth.
Akpa, who is also Managing Director of SKG Pharma Ltd, said, “Our members have invested in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, some of which have received certifications from the World Health Organisation for Good Manufacturing Practices.
“We have achieved milestones, such as WHO pre-qualification for a product and as a matter of fact, we boast of some of the most extensive manufacturing facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are also leading in the manufacture of diagnostics and medical devices with the recent opening of the first in-vitro diagnostic manufacturing facility in Sub-Saharan Africa. This further demonstrates our capability to compete globally if adequately supported.
“Our continuous efforts aim to ensure the availability and affordability of effective and safe medicines, including rare and innovative ones, by focusing on local production and strategic importation.
“However, our Industry faces some challenges that inhibit the expected growth. The recent scarcity of drugs and the attendant high costs underscores the need for the government and all stakeholders to pay critical attention to the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria.”
The pharmacist assured the minister of the stakeholders’ commitment to collaborating with him to ensure sustainable access to quality, safe, effective, and affordable medicines, vaccines, and medical devices in Nigeria.