The Federal government has been called upon to patronise the local pharmaceutical industry by purchasing made in Nigeria pharmaceutical products even as pharmacists have warned that overdependence on imported medicines is a health security risk to the country.

Newly elected president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, who made the call in Lagos last week,said government should believe in the locally manufactutured products.

He said:
“Government should practice what it preaches and patronise Nigerian pharmaceutical companies, and show in word and in action that it supports the local manufacturing industry especially the pharmaceutical industry.”

Ohuabunwa, who was one time President of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, PMGMAN, blamed factors such as policy inconsistency, deficit of infrastructure, lack of patronage of locally manufactured goods, and uncontrolled space for proliferation of imported medicinal products into the country.

In his words, “It is cheaper to import medicines than to manufacture locally, every drug involves some active ingredient, and the process of importing each ingredient required for manufacture is the same for the finished products.

“The management of pharmaceutical companies and cost of production of medicines is too high, and locally manufactured drugs cannot compete with imported drugs.

“We will not allow importation take over the country. Nigeria must expect to be like the rest of the world. We know there is a Federal policy that says local production of medicines should be at least 75 percent, but we are currently nowhere near this range, so we must work with the industry too incease that.

‘’The issue of medicines is one of national health security and it is risky to be wholly dependent on imported drugs, because if there is shortage in supply or the drugs are no longer available, what do we do, when people begin to die?

“The PSN will not let that happen so we are determined to improve local production and increase local sourcing of raw materials for increased manufacture of drugs.”

‘’Many companies have invested, but the consequence of inability to control our borders lead to smuggled imported goods competing unfairly with the local products.

Ohuabunwa also added towards ensuring sanity in the drug distribution system, saying the PSN is advocating for signing of the new Pharmacy Council Law, which will give the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, PCN, greater mandate.

“The law has been approved by the National Assembly but it is still with the President and awaiting signing into law. All these concerns about drug abuse and misuse cannot be done without the appropriate law that will ensure its distribution and use.

“We expect that the smooth take off of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines, NDDG, will help address the challenges and restorre pharmacists as direct custodians of medicines.

“My vision is that we should be able to trace every tablet, every bottle, spoon of syrup, capsule, and vial of injection to the custodian who is the pharmacist. That is the ideal role of the pharmcist is to protect the interest of the patient getting the right outcomes.”

Issuing a warning to Nigerians, that medicines are complex chemicals, he said they have potential to cure and to kill and destroy, but that the difference is in how they are handled.

In his words, “We need to position the pharmaceutical profession so that we can improve healthcare and wellbeing of Nigerians and welbeing of healthcare professional.

“The system is still not orderly, disorderliness creates room for counterfeits and access to regulated medicines that should not be available to inappropriate persons to handle. We want to stop drugs getting into the hands of unqualified persons.

Also speaking on fortunes of the pharmaceutical industry, the Chairman, PMGMAN, Dr Okey Akpa noted that the right incentives should be in place.

“We have moved up to 40-45 percent, but we have deviated. As far back as 2005, we have said 60 percent of what we produce should neet 70 percent of what we consume and 40 exported The PMGMAN has advocated that Nigeria with 200 million people must achieve medicine security, it is risky risky to be dependent on imported medicines, we saw the effects during the Ebola outbreak. Medicine security is a must.

“We are calling for the right level of protection for the industry and this is to discourage importation of products that can be manufactured in Nigeria.

“Where we have shown capacity to meet the need of Nigerians, prices will be stabilised and quality guaranteed. NAFDAC can regulate locally manufactured products than those imported.

“Government is the biggest spender, and we are urging that they should patronise locally manufactured pharmaceucal industry. Government should treat pharmaceutical manufacturing as priority and target it as the agriculture sector is being targeted to achieve food security.

“We want the pharmaceutical industry to be targeted to achieve medicine security. We have said that this industry requires a N300 billion pharmaceutical expansion and export fund, we are asking that this fund be set aside and administered with an interest that will make it attractive for investment.”

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