Senate, PMGMAN decry lack of appropriate medicines’ policy, alert on looming drug scarcity
As part of efforts towards ensuring medicines’ security and self-sufficiency by boosting manufacturing capacity in Nigeria, key stakeholders in the Nigerian healthcare sector had a high-level interactive meeting, last week, in Abuja.
The meeting was organised by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN).
PMGMAN Chairman, Mr. Okey Akpa, in his keynote revealed the lack of an appropriate policy to ensure national security, medicine-wise.
Akpa said the nation remains at significant risk of drug insecurity together with consequent widespread effects on the health of over 170 million Nigerians.
He buttressed his points by referring to Nigeria’s recent history with the Ebola crisis and how these lessons made it obligatory for a proactive country to develop strategies to ensure it became self-sufficient in medicines.
Based on this, he identified the need to develop a comprehensive and far-reaching medicines’ security policy, which will ensure a robust engagement with medicine security issues.
He went further to intimate the Legislature and various Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) regarding barriers and limitations currently encountered in Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Akpa then called on the Legislature and other key stakeholders to facilitate enabling environments for maximizing manufacturing capacity for medicines in the country.
The theme of the Forum “Medicines’ security and national self-sufficiency: maximizing medicines’ production capacity in Nigeria”, was carefully chosen to enable an innovative approach to rigorously and comprehensively engage with the challenges in the sector.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Industry, Senator Sam Egwu, lauded PMG-MAN on the topical nature of the forum, the theme was apt for addressing Nigeria’s current economic challenges.
The Senate Committee Chairmen congratulated the PMG-MAN members that had gained World Health Organisation (WHO) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification. Adding that their commendable achievement had placed Nigeria among the nations of the world whose local drug industries manufacture at the highest international standards.
This step has been identified as a major precursor for the attainment of self –sufficiency, reduction of medical tourism and commencement of substantial exportation of pharmaceutical products to other countries.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, further commended the Group for steadily holding the forte in contributing towards the Nation’s access to safe and high-quality medicines. This was despite the unfavourable local and international environment that had impacted businesses in the Pharma industry.
On the issue of self-sufficiency, Ohuabunwa agreed with the seriousness of the issue. He indicated that ignoring self-sufficiency as regards medicines would be perilous to the nation, as the issue goes beyond healthcare and even impinges on national security.
He added that since drugs can be located at the major root of the health and wellbeing of the citizenry, it can also impact on other areas of human performance, just like food, clothing and shelter. This means that it represents an important area of national concern.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Primary Health therefore surmised that all key stakeholders must be concerned about Nigeria’s over-dependence on external supply for its drug needs. It was based on this that He then called on Government and all key partners to collaboratively develop a policy milieu that would encourage an increase in the capacity of the local drug manufacturing industries.
He stipulated that the target should be the achievement of a threshold of self-sufficiency of not less than 70 per cent of our overall need. At this level, it could be said that the Nation has achieved national security in this area, and this would additionally help boost citizens’ confidence in their government.
To achieve this, he advised government to shift emphasis to long term self sufficiency of drugs in the country through local production of essential drugs.
Other strategies Ohuabunwa advocated included smarter and more purposeful drug procurement processes, which will promote local production of essential drugs. This and other strategies would be underpinned by more comprehensive and robust legislative inputs.
As part of their contribution to the necessary processes, the Senate Committee Chairmen promised expeditious harmonization and update of existing drug laws in the country.
To help ensure that the impact of the relevant laws were maximised to facilitate medicines’ self-sufficiency, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health promised that the senate would ensure effective implementation of policies through proactive oversight functions.
Dr. Tejuoso revealed that several laws existed which could have protected the Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, but till now, implementation had been weak. He however promised that under his leadership, the legislature would employ various strategies in ensuring that pharmaceutical manufacturing in Nigeria is protected. This includes the use of the statutory oversight functions and other enforcement mechanisms that are available to the Nigerian Legislature.
Tejuoso assured the Group that the Senate Committee on Health would sanction Nigerian MDAs that discriminated against local manufacturers and encouraged PMGMAN to report any discriminatory practices to his Committee.
Indeed, providing adequate access to high quality healthcare has always been an intractable challenge in Nigeria. Seeing as drug therapy forms the majority of healthcare interventions, PMGMAN leveraged on its vantage position to gather the crème de la crème of policymakers in Nigerian healthcare to debate strategies for achieving national self-sufficiency in medicines’ manufacturing.
Attendance for the forum was drawn from highest echelon of the Nigerian Legislature, as represented by the Chairmen of the frontline committees of the Senate.
Also represented, were key policymakers from the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as other key stakeholders in health policy, research, industry and manufacturing.