The federal government and the health policy commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) have held discussions on ways to enhance local production of medicines and vaccines, especially COVID-19 vaccine.
In a pre-27th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES27) dialogue by members of the NESG and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning with the theme “Enhancing Local Manufacturing of Medicines and Vaccines,” NESG’s board member, Mr Lanre Akinbo, said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inherent weaknesses in Nigeria’s health system and the rise in prices of drugs.
Akinbo also said medical consumables have had a cascading negative effect on the treatment and overall quality of life of Nigerians. He stated that encouraging local pharmaceutical manufacturing would enhance the domestic production of medicines and vaccines.
Mr Akinbo revealed that the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) reported that members were able to access over 90 per cent of the COVID-19 health loans provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and that the country is presently in the early stages of COVID-19 vaccine development.
Minister of trade and investment, Otunba Adebayo, stated that the pandemic has amplified vulnerabilities, forced countries to be self-sufficient and encouraged the development of Nigeria’s health sector which are all critical to economic growth.
“We currently meet 30 per cent of our demands for health commodities and we realise the importance of developing the health sector. Presently, Nigeria has a total sold annual capacity of 1.6 billion syringes and needles with a demand of between 2.5 to 3 billion syringes; indicating that our industries are not supplying the demand in that sector, perhaps due to cost of production,” she stated.
Ms Melifonwu also revealed that a national industrial policy on medical devices is being developed to stop importing sub-standard products, and added that it has become mandatory for all health institutions to use locally manufactured syringes and needles to help contribute to the health sector’s growth and country GDP.
Managing director of the office of COVAX facility, Aurelia Nguyen, said that the pharmaceutical market is critical to Nigeria’s future and economic growth, and the pandemic has shown why countries like Nigeria need to be self-sufficient in the production of medical consumables.
Also, managing director of Fidson Healthcare limited, Dr Fidelis Ayebae, said that a country that fails to manufacture what they consume would certainly face problems in the long run. He reiterated the need for policies to be targeted at industries keen on national development. Nigeria does not presently have a policy focused on making drug manufacturing a sustainable sector in Nigeria.
“The smallest investment to set up a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Nigeria is not less than N5 billion naira, and complex therapeutic agents will require tens of billions of naira. Individuals involved are not protected, and all manners of policy summersaults tend to affect producers,” he said.
Dr. Ayebae said there was need for the CBN to assist players in the pharmaceutical field while ensuring proper monitoring and evaluation of players in the sector. “Local manufacturing remains the only antidote to fighting the prevalence of fake and substandard products in the country,” he stated.