President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, has call on the Nigerian government to see the pharmaceutical industry as a sub-sector of the Nigerian economy that must be assisted and exploited to create increased national income and absorb more available skilled manpower.
Mazi Ohuabunwa made the assertion while presenting a keynote address on the topic, “Pharmaceutical Industry and Economic Health: Opportunities for Developing Countries”, during the 8th Annual Scientific Conference and Exposition of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), held from 18 to 21 September in Florida, USA,
He explained that there were opportunities in Nigeria that could be utilised to grow pharmaceutical capacity, productivity and contribution to both national income and wellbeing.
Ohuabunwa further noted that the fact that over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s drug needs were imported had impact on not just foreign exchange outflow but also efforts on job creation. He added that it was unacceptable and risky to make the nation dependent so much on external sources for a critical and strategic need like medicine.
He also said that the recent national embarrassment suffered by Nigeria when its request for experimental drug, Zmapp, from the United States was denied, was a case in point, adding that depending on external sources for medicines portends a lot of risk for patients and the nation.
The renowned pharmacist and technocrat noted that should Nigeria accelerate the creation of an enabling environment, the nation could easily attract fresh investment either in existing pharmaceutical companies or in the setup of new plants.
The call for investment, Ohuabunwa stated further, becomes more critical for the upgrade of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) of the domestic plants and possible progression to WHO pre-qualification status, adding that this would not only guarantee additional quality for the finished products but would allow local industries compete for Global Fund tenders.
Mazi Ohuabunwa explained that increased GMP status of Nigeria local pharmaceutical industries would equally give them opportunity to sell in the West and Central Africa markets, as they would readily meet the regulatory requirements of most other African nations and possibly beyond.
He noted that other West African nations were looking up to Nigeria’s leadership in the pharmaceutical trade and minimisation of sub-standard products.
Earlier in his welcome address at the conference, NAPPSA president, Dr Funmi Ajayi, said that in order to strengthen and support opportunities for pharmacy education exchange programmes between Nigeria and the US, a mentoring scheme was developed by the Education Committee of NAPPSA whereby members adopt pharmacy students in Nigeria that they train and mentor.
Ajayi stated further that the desire of the NAPPSA executive was to develop and give NAPPSA a ‘voice’ by leveraging established national and international professional relationships, adding that among the deliverables for this goal was enhanced connection with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), as well as affiliated organisations like the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americans (ANPA).
The NAPPSA conference was graced by top dignitaries, including Dr Khaliru Alhasan, minister of state for health; Dr Tamuno F. Okujagu, director-general, Nigeria National Medicine Development Agency; Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo, chairman, PCN, Prof. Kola Jaiyeoba, vice chancellor, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Dr Linus Igwemezie, executive vice president of Novartis Pharma AG, and Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) .