This certainly is not the best of news for local drug manufacturers as Nigeria’s pharmaceutical imports have been forecast to reach $789 million by 2018, thereby widening the country’s pharmaceutical trade deficit from the $475 million it posted in 2013.
Addressing a gathering of foreign investors, pharmacists and other health practitioners during the Nigeria-Pakistan Pharma Investment Forum (NIPIF 2014), Mr Farouk Gumel, a PwC West Africa adviser, who was the keynote speaker at the forum, explained that the $789 million projected import mark clearly represents a 10.4 per cent rise from what was recorded in 2013.
During his presentation on “Investment Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical Sector – Nigeria/Pakistan”, Gumel disclosed that despite the gloomy prediction, imports still remain key to meeting growing local demand for medicines in the country.
The keynote speaker also took a swipe at the Nigeria’s critically low levels of human and infrastructure resources for health care, adding that while no reliable data exists, various estimates have put the amounts so far spent on medical tourism abroad over the years at between $500 million and $800 million.
“Some of the top medical tourist destinations observed over the years include India, Europe, the United States and the Persian Gulf. In fact, the Indian High Commission estimated that 47 per cent of Nigerians who visited India in 2012 did so to seek medical attention, spending $260m on treatment – about $15,000 per medical tourist,” he said.
According to the PwC West Africa adviser, a research conducted by the International Medical Travel Journal had it that the major medical conditions most Nigerians often travelled abroad for include brain surgery, open heart surgery, eye treatment, renal transplants, cancer and cosmetic surgery.
“What this simply means is that opportunities exist for investors to take advantage of, especially in the gap noticeable in the health and pharmaceutical sector in Africa’s largest economy,” he opined.
Gumel buttressed his view by saying that although there were over 130 pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria, only nine were listed on the stock exchange.
“These pharma firms include Neimeth, Neros, Emzor, May & Baker Nigeria, Fidson, Drugfield, Nigerian German Chemical Plc (NGC), Novartis and GSK. Also, some of the common drugs they produce are anti-malarials, vaccines and antiretroviral (ARV), antibiotics, anti-helminthics, oncology drugs and diabetic drugs,” he noted.
The speaker was however quick to laud the efforts so far made by NAFDAC to sanitise and standardise the pharmaceutical industry. Gumel declared that, among other things, NAFDAC now inspects factories anywhere in the world before it registers or renews the registration of their products; mandates all pharmaceutical companies to imprint unique numbers on drugs; requires compulsory pre-shipment information from all importers before the arrival of their products, and collaborates with the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme) to combat drugs counterfeiting and the illegal sale of prescription drugs.
“Not only that, I am aware they are collaborating with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) to close pharmaceutical companies involved with illegal and fake drugs, as well as launching of a Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) to check the authenticity of pharmaceutical products. These efforts are quite remarkable,” he stated.
The presentation also highlighted some of the features Nigeria and Pakistan had in common such as population size, health expenditure in the budgets of both countries and size of pharmaceutical companies on both sides.
“Also, Nigeria and Pakistan have similar disease burden with a significant proportion of deaths attributable to communicable diseases, with malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery being common ailments,” he observed.
In his conclusion, Gumel said that the bilateral trade between Nigerian and Pakistan had since peaked and reached the incredible mark of $56 million.
“In my opinion, I think the Pakistani pharmaceutical Industry is expected to post steady growth into the near future, while the Nigerian pharmaceutical Industry is expected to grow at a faster rate until 2020,” he stressed.
No fewer than 50 investors from Pakistan attended the forum, as well as two investors each from Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ghana, confirming reports that Pakistani companies are indeed eager to make an inroad into the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry.