The federal government of Nigeria has not ceased to tackle the issue of inadequate pharmaceutical drug supply, three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how global shocks in supply and logistics can worsen the hardship of nations without self-adequacy to generate major medicines. Nigeria vulnerability to the reducing pharmaceutical supply is being revealed in a manner that implies that the lessons gotten from COVID-19 have been speedily forgotten. Months after the outbreak began, Nigeria encountered difficulty in securing medical vaccines and supplies due to the need of foreign aid countries to attend to internal demand.
During the early months of the pandemic, export of medical and raw materials required to make diagnostics were restricted by over 70 countries. The establishment of the Africa Medical Supplies Platform in June 2020 by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) was the reason Nigeria commenced procurement of medical supplies, which made it possible to better meet demand. At the time many countries were progressing to administer booster doses, having got 47 percent of people vaccinated globally, Nigeria only had 3 percent of its eligible citizens fully vaccinated.
FG only initiated few financial interventions to equip the industry.
However, without a major outbreak in Nigeria, drugs are reducing in pharmacy shelves while local pharmaceutical firms are finding it difficult to cover the lapses. There is difficulty in the accessibility of foreign exchange to import raw materials and products by majority of these firms, which has led to rapid increases in the cost of the few available supplies. The CEO at St. Racheal’s Pharmaceuticals, Akinjide Adeosun, said that firms are struggling with a single-digit interest rate policy on loans which discourages local drug production.
Multiple taxations and collaterals are also not encouraging, as the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) continuously draw out levies from manufacturers. He said that the government only initiated few financial interventions to equip the production industry. Local production is being affected by stringent monetary policies which also jeopardize the security of national drug in Nigeria. The managing director of PBR Life Sciences, an healthcare firm that leverages data and technology, Ayodeji Alaran, said that between 2018–2020, about 2,000 pharmaceutical products were imported into the country.
There is an existing challenge of poor utilization of factories’ capacity.
According to the report from the International Trade Centre, there was a decline in Nigerian medicine imports from $1.3 billion in 2021 to $1 billion in 2022, indicating a decline of 23.4 percent. 2020 data showed a decrease of 63 percent from $2.8 billion in the same year. Exports also reduced by 65.0 percent to $779 million in 2022. Nevertheless, firms that had manufacturing facilities for tablets experienced an increase of 125 percent in the cost of energy between 2021 and 2022. The external affairs director at Sanofi Nigeria, a multinational pharmaceutical firm, Dimeji Agbolade, stated that there is an existing challenge of poor utilization of the capacity of factories in the country. Consequently, the lower the volume done, the higher the unit prices of drugs manufactured.
Executive director and chief finance officer of the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), Ijeoma Ozulumba, affirmed that the provision of finance to the production sector needs a lot of work. She said that only 17 percent of the N5 trillion invested into the production sector, in terms of advances and loans, in 2022, was channeled to pharmaceutical manufacturing. She added that manufacturing contributes 36 percent, apart from the exportation of crude oil, and 12 percent of the formal sector has employment in manufacturing. Also, N11.2 billion has been disbursed by DBN to the healthcare sector to improve the conditions in the country.
Stakeholders expect the building of more large scale production.
N480 million has been given to 71 health micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) to show support in economically-disadvantaged regions, with primary focus on the northwest and northeast. Stakeholders expect the building of more large scale production from financial institutions, which will enable Nigeria self-sustenance, just like South Africa, Brazil, China, India and others. A well-developed pharmaceutical industry is present in South Africa, and is supported by government regulations responsible for production of essential medicines. There is always a need to import essential drugs, even in countries that have well-developed pharmaceutical firms.