An international expert in healthcare and pharmaceuticals has stated that to curb the perennial challenge of drug counterfeiting in Nigeria, there must be proper marketing surveillance, as well as sincere commitment on the part of regulators.
Speaking recently with Pharmanews during a special dinner held in honour of local pharmaceutical manufacturers in the country at Shoregate Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, Dr Emily Kaine, senior vice president on global public health for the United States Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention, explained that although counterfeiting is a global problem, there are effective measures that can be taken to combat it.
According to her, “As long as there are bad actors, there are going to be counterfeits. What we found out is that with the right marketing surveillance and right investment, the bad actors can be discouraged and weeded out.”
Kaine further explained that the “right investment” she referred to must start with a total commitment from regulatory authorities such as National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
A doctorate degree holder from Columbia University, the USP’s senior vice president remarked that although it was her first visit to Nigeria, she had nevertheless heard a lot about the potentials and prospects of the country’s pharmaceutical industry.
“I must say that I am impressed by the commitment, quality, enterprising spirit and the passion in the industry. Really inspiring! I am so pleased about having the opportunity to work with these great pharma leaders in the industry through our integral programme at USAID,” she said.
Kaine added that she was particularly impressed with the Pharmanews journal, admitting that she initially thought it was published overseas.
L-R: Dr Ebere Ekpunobi, managing director, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Limited; Adebola Adekoya, USP’s quality assurance specialist; Dr Emily Kaine, senior vice president, United States Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention and Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, managing director of Pharmanews Limited
“Good content, great quality. It is really inspiring!” she enthused.
When asked for suggestions on how manufacturers can best cope with the current recession, Kaine stated that much as she wouldn’t want to comment on the issue, she could not help describing it as “an incredibly challenging situation.”
“But then, I have to say that sustaining quality and investing in those fundamentals to deliver quality to the pharmaceutical sector has its own reward. For us, we believe that if half of the products imported into the country are produced locally, Nigeria shouldn’t have problem competing globally. But it has to go hand-in-hand with quality,” she declared.
In terms of capacity building, Kaine disclosed that USP had made major commitments across the continent, adding that the Convention was always looking forward to doing more and maximising its impact through partnership and through working with all local constituents.
The health and pharma expert further noted that it was really a pleasure seeing so many local pharmaceutical giants in Nigeria.
“Again, it is a testament to the fact that we really have some committed local partners. And you know, without them, there is no reason for us to be here (Nigeria). I think we have a pretty good future,” she stressed.”
In a separate interview, Dr Chimezie Anyakora, a consultant and USP chief of party, disclosed that 2016 was a wonderful year for the USP Convention.
“We have done a lot of support programme in the pharma industry and I am so excited with what is happening in the sector. People are picking up and thinking of quality. Presently, Nigeria is supplying many African countries with quality pharma products in a big way.
“For me, our little contribution makes me so excited. NAFDAC has a new laboratory right now. The right news about Nigeria is getting onto the map more and more. It is more about a country where quality matters,” he opined.
Anyakora who, some months ago, held a week-long capacity building programme for local pharma manufacturers and NAFDAC inspectors at Banex Hotel in Lagos, further explained that the Convention’s mission is to train, support and give empowerment where it is needed.
“Our training is not just an interactive forum. The manufacturers will know what the innovators are thinking and vice versa. That way, we know the dialogue will be much better and will lead to improvement in quality. I am a strong believer in the Nigerian brand. As I keep telling people, I see a future that is superb!” he enthused.
While applauding the atmosphere of camaraderie that pervaded the banquet room, the USP chief of party noted that the goal of the forum was to bring together as many local manufacturers in Nigeria as possible to interact and network.
“We hope to have it more often. As you can see, we have more CEOs and directors around. It is advocacy. We want to tell the whole world that Nigeria is not what they used to think of it. Before now, people thought you cannot get large pharma procurement from Nigeria.
“I am therefore using this opportunity to encourage our people that instead of investing billions in pharma industries abroad, we have capable companies here. As earlier said, this type of forum is like a peer review mechanism where people see one another, network and get encouraged,” he remarked.
In a show of appreciation, Pharm. Okey Akpa, chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN) applauded the Dr Emily Kaine-led USP team for seeing the need to collaborate with local manufacturers.
“It was a privilege to follow a delegation to see what USP has in store for Nigeria. I am even more excited with their senior vice president who is here in person today. Although, just like Oliver Twist, we still expect more from you. Let me say that we couldn’t have had a better partner than USP at the moment,” he said.
Also in attendance at the dinner were Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, managing director of Pharmanews Limited; Prince Chris Nebe, chairman, Phamatex Industries Limited; Pharm. Kunle Ekundayo, chief executive officer, Drugfield Pharma Limited; Ikenna Orakwe, head of public health, Chi Pharma and Biola Adebayo, ex director, Fidson Healthcare Plc.
Others were Dr Obi Adigwe, PMGMAN’s secretary general; Ignatus Anukwu, pharma manager, Swipha; Tosin Jolayemi, managing director, Daily Need Industries Limited; Dr Ebere Ekpunobi, managing director, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Limited; Nonyelum Okpagu, USP project coordinator and Adebola Adekoya, USP’s quality assurance and quality control specialist.
The United States Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formed a cooperative agreement about 20 years ago to promote quality of medicine globally. This gave rise to a USP programme known as ‘Promoting the Quality of Medicines (PQM). Today, PQM is active in 38 countries.
In Nigeria, the PQM programme has been active for about four years. Its office was formally established two years ago in Lagos.