Why we started local production of drugs – Prince Nebe


In this interview with Pharmanews, managing director/CEO of Phamatex Industries Limited, Prince Nebe spoke on what prompted him to go into local pharmaceutical manufacturing after about 25 years of drug importation and marketing. He also spoke on the challenges facing local pharmaceutical manufacturers and what government can do help the operators. Excerpts:
What prompted your decision to go into local pharmaceutical manufacturing with the establishment of Phamatex Industries Limited, having been the sole distributor and representative of products from Hovid, a multinational pharmaceutical company in Nigeria for several years?
Of course, when you have been in business for a very long time, there comes a time when you appraise the business, take stock, and take steps that will move it (the business) to the next level. We have been in the business of importation and marketing of drugs for over 25 years, so it was important for us to have our own base and start local manufacturing of some of the products we were importing, if not all of them.
Aside from boosting the provision of essential medicines for our people, this will also help create employment for Nigerians and industrialise the nation. This step, we believe,will also enable us contribute more to the growth of the economy and the nation.
No one can single-handedly provide all the drugs we need in this country. Therefore, there is no clash of interests or quarrel over anything. We still have a very good relationship with Hovid.

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What type of products are you producing at PIL and what prompted your choice of drugs to manufacture locally?
We produce both over-the-counter (OTC) and ethical products. We manufacture tablets, syrups and capsules. We have various brands of quality products for different health conditions. We have antibiotics, anti-malarials and other products.

What is the philosophy driving your processes at PIL?
Our guiding principle here is quality. You know where we are coming from, Hovid. Hovid is a reputable multinational pharmaceutical company noted for quality, and Hovid’s products are accepted and respected everywhere.So, we cannot but continue this legacy of quality we have been known for, having traded in Hovid’s quality products for years.
We have invested heavily in setting up this factory and ensuring it meets international standards. Our manufacturing processes are comparable to those of any top manufacturing company anywhere in the world. Therefore, we guarantee that our products are of top quality.

What prompted your choice of location for this PIL factory? Why Amuwo Odofin and not Ota, Ogun State, as some pharmaceutical manufacturing companies have done lately?
I know so many people are going to Ota to establish factories and, in fact, we also wanted to site this factory in Ota. We had a land procured for that purpose; but the very first day I went there from here, I changed my mind. The traffic situation was terrible and I wondered how easy it would be to have a factory there. I also reside in this area and I wanted a place that is very accessible to enable proper supervision of what is going on.

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What is the relationship of PIL with regulatory agencies like NAFDAC and PCN?
When the Director-General of NAFDAC visited this factory, he gave us a pass mark and rated us as one of the best pharmaceutical manufacturing companies he had ever visited. As a matter of fact, he said PIL had made his year, and not just his day,simply because of the quality infrastructure on ground.
We have a very good relationship with NAFDAC and the PCN. As I said earlier, quality is our watchword here and that is why we are aiming for the World Health Organisation (WHO) prequalification. In fact, WHO officials have visited this factory three times informally. We are going for the WHO prequalification because we are sure of the quality of the products we are producing here.

What can the government do to help local pharmaceutical manufacturers?
What the government should do is to provide the enabling environment for local pharmaceutical production to thrive. We have the issue of poor power supply. We have the issue of bad roads. We have the issue of high import duties being charged on raw materials. There should be zero import duty charged for pharmaceutical raw materials. Some countries are already doing this to encourage local manufacturers and Nigeria, too, should consider this idea.

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What is your advice for the new government of Nigeria? What should the Buhari government do to further help local pharmaceutical manufacturers and the industry?
What is needed to transform the industry is quite enormous. There are so many things that are needed. I will just advise the government to parley with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) on what the industry needs to move to the next level. If the government and the PMG-MAN can work together, the industry will be able to contribute more to the economy.
As I said earlier, power is crucial. We need to get power supply right in this country and provide other required infrastructure if we really want to industrialise the country.

Where do you hope to see PIL in the next 10 to 20 years?
The plan is to see this factory and company grow. We’ll add more production lines for tablets and syrups, and also start the production of injectables, as well as opening up more branches for the company.