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UNILAG pharmacy students proffer solutions to persistent drug hikes

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UNILAG pharmacy students proffer solutions to persistent drug hikes

 

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Pharmacists have identified innovation as a way out of the current challenges confronting the nation’s pharmaceutical industry, which has led to persistent hikes in the prices of drugs.

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The experts proffered the solution during a symposium themed, ‘Turning Innovation into Impactful Pharma-solutions’, organised by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students, University of Lagos chapter.

The Annual Health Week Symposium was conveyed by the pharmacy students to deliberate on measures to improve the pharmaceutical sector.

The keynote speaker and Lead Consultant of Pharmalliance, Adeshina Opanubi, said innovation locally will go a long way in finding solutions to the problems facing the pharmaceutical industry.

Opanubi said, “Now that the exchange rate is getting out of hand, we need to look inward and see what we can do locally. What products are Indigenous to us – Nigeria and Africa, that we can begin to explore?

“What import substitution can we begin to do because that is the only way we can build a sustainable and robust local industry?

“More companies should begin to look into Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients because the less of that we import, the more it strengthens our local industry. Yes, innovation is the way out.”

The pharmacist also stressed the need for young people to leverage innovations in creating values and ideas that can transform existing policies and bring about sustainable change

“The drivers of innovation include financial pressure to reduce costs, increase efficiency, increased competition, shorter product life cycles, value migration, demographic, social and market changes,

“Rising customer expectations regarding service and quality, and changing economy”, he said.

Innovation, according to Opanubi, is anything that proposes an alternative to something that is done in a certain way, brings economic and behavioural benefits, solves problems, or makes people’s daily lives more practical.

He added, “It also involves the whole process from opportunity identification, ideation or invention, development, prototyping, production, marketing, and sales.”

According to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Nigeria currently imports all its APIs with the bulk of the imported ingredients coming from China and India.

In her remarks, the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, UNILAG, Prof. Gloria Ayoola, said the theme was apt and timely while congratulating the pharmacy students for a successful symposium that centred on innovation.

Ayoola said, “Innovation is core to what we do as pharmacists. We aren’t just innovative, we produce drugs for treatment.

“We also innovate to improve patients’ outcomes, enhance healthcare delivery, and ultimately save lives. It is one thing to innovate, it is another to turn our innovation into practical and actionable pharma solutions.”

The don identified finance as one of the major challenges they are facing in the pharma sector.

 

“We need finance to be able to take some of these innovations and turn them into pharma solutions, especially for the young ones who are coming into the profession. We just need to think out of the box to overcome our challenges”, the dean said.

Also speaking, the Sub-Dean, Dr Foluke Ayeni said, “So, for our students to be able to turn the current challenges we have in the pharmaceutical space into innovations that can better the pharmaceutical industry, is the reason why we are here today.

“One of the things that I think we need to do to get us out of the challenges of hikes in the cost of drugs is to get supportive roles played by the government and policymakers.

“This will enable the pharmaceutical industry ( drug manufacturers) to have access to the raw materials that they need in the manufacture of drugs so that they can keep prices down to the barest minimum for the patients.

“If we can have access to our raw materials and we can manufacture the majority of the medicines that we use, we will be able to keep prices down to the barest minimum. A very good case is what is happening now because of the increase in the exchange rate.”

According to her, the prices of the majority of our medications have gone over the roof and many people are not able to afford their medicines.

Ayeni further suggested, “But if we can manufacture our drugs locally, patients will have access to drugs at the right price.”

President of PANS, UNILAG chapter, Oluwanifesimi Agbede, in her remarks, said the symposium is an annual event that is held in pharmacy schools in the country where they come together to talk about a particular topic to encourage pharmacy students to do better.

She said, “We want to encourage pharmacy students that they can be very innovative and can come up with ideas that can improve the pharmaceutical industry.

“They can come up with any ideas that can improve existing policies. When it comes to emerging solutions, there are no bad ideas. So they should be innovative and come up with ideas that can solve the problem in the pharmaceutical sector.

“We have a lot of challenges in the health sector and so we are encouraging the pharmacy students to bring innovative solutions to these problems.”

Agbede called on the Federal Government to invest in local drug manufacturing to check hikes in the prices of drugs.

“The challenge that we have in the cost of drugs is usually because we import most of our drugs and then, those producing locally import the raw materials.

“So, the FG should invest in local manufacturing of both drugs and also Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients.

“We should have our APIs produced here because we knew that when there was a COVID-19 outbreak, there was a hike in the prices of drugs. After all, we were importing everything.

“So, we need to have a complete system of manufacturing from the raw materials to packaging materials. That way, we can have drugs at affordable prices and we aren’t affected by the fluctuation of the naira to the dollar”, she said.

 

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