(By Yusuff Moshood)
Three years ago, specifically in the month of May, 2011, I was part of the Pharmanews team, led by my MD, Pharm. (Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi, on a tour of Swiss Pharma Nigeria Limited (Swipha)’s, ultramodern factory in Dopemu, Lagos State.
Our tour of the state-of-the-art facility was quite illuminating and memorable. It was a first-hand glimpse of the painstaking efforts of the Swipha team, led by its chairman/CEO, Mr Colin Cummings, to make the factory and the company world class.
After our tour of the factory, we moved to the company’s boardroom where I interviewed Mr Cummings. The chief executive officer was unambiguous in his articulation of his vision for Swipha. He remarked that the ultimate goal of the company was to be a Nigerian multinational pharmaceutical company competing with the best in the world. He disclosed that Swipha, the first pharmaceutical company in Nigeria to be ISO 9001:2000 certified, worked very hard to regularly re-validate its quality management system and consistently ensure that the company’s products were of premium quality.
He also revealed that Swipha was in the process of obtaining a WHO GMP certification which would further guarantee its customers and everyone else that its products were of superior quality and could be bought or sold anywhere in the world. He added that the company was partnering with NAFDAC and WHO to reach this goal.
After our interaction, a story was published in the following edition of Pharmanews under the headline: Swipha to be first Nigerian multinational company – Cummings.
Essentially, Mr Cummings practically foretold the recent ascension of Swipha to the club of elite pharmaceutical manufacturers with WHO GMP compliant status during that interview. The company is the first Nigerian pharmaceutical company to be declared WHO GMP compliant and, indeed, the first and only company with that status in West Africa.
Swipha must be commended for meticulously going through the series of rigorous quality audits of both the Inspection Unit of the WHO Prequalification Programme for Essential Medicine and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
The Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) must equally be commended for the proactive partnership that led to WHO giving technical support on the certification process to some Nigerians pharmaceutical companies amongst which was Swipha.
Cheeringly, some other pharmaceutical companies in the country are already following the path of Swipha. It is no doubt the way to go.
It must be emphasised also that the kind of industry-regulator partnership that resulted in the landmark achievement by Swipha should be the norm in our quest as a nation to surmount the myriads of challenges holding us back from moving to the next level as an industrialized nation. I was in India in February 2012 attending a conference on biotechnology tagged “BioAsia 2012” and facilitated by the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil). I saw, first-hand, how the Indian government makes direct intervention to promote and encourage the growth of drug manufacturing companies, not just to meet local needs but to specifically ensure Indian pharmaceutical products are bought and used in all the countries of the world.
To say India is succeeding is to say the obvious. Aside having a lot finished products manufactured in India on our drug shelves; there is a huge dependence of our pharmaceutical industries on importation from India for virtually all the required raw and packaging materials as well as capital equipment.
As I congratulate Swipha for this historic milestone, I also urge the Nigerian government and regulatory agencies to continue strengthening their partnership with the local pharmaceutical industries. With this partnership, the pharmaceutical sector will not only speedily grow to meet local demands for quality medicaments but will also be strong enough to compete in the global market.