Drug stores may run out of stock
• NAIP, PSN seek FOREX allocation for health sector
Barring a drastic effort to quell the Foreign Exchange (FOREX) crisis, drug stores and pharmaceutical warehouses across the country will be facing out-of-stock and huge scarcity by mid-year.
Feelers from both the local manufacturers and their importing counterparts in the pharmaceutical sector revealed that importation of either active ingredients or finished products have been impossible in the last couple of weeks with immense pressure on limited reserves.
Confirming the fears, Chairman of the National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP), Gbenga Falabi, said that the health sector was in for difficult times, as the warehouses would have been dried up by July this year.
Foreseeing that the health sector would be in dire strait without requisite drugs and pharmaceutical products, Falabi and the National President of Pharmacists Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai, have canvassed that the health sector be accorded priority in the proposed FOREX allocation plan to save it from collapse.
Falabi, at the bimonthly meeting of the pharmaceutical industry, observed that Nigeria was in its’ austere season which was largely preceded by so much abundance especially in crude- oil receipts.
But as a nation that choose to “squandered all on profligacy and obscene opulence” rather than take advantage of the surplus to prepare ourselves for the rainy days ahead and lay foundation for a productive and highly industralised economy, we have “come full circle into another season that will demand very painful cost saving sacrifices on the part of all key stakeholders.”
He added that the Pharma Industry with its attendant high FOREX exposure continue to face the challenge of meeting foreign obligations to suppliers/partners, with the wide gulf between the official exchange rate and what is available in the parallel market, due to the paucity of funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the sector.
“It is therefore a matter of time before the nation is confronted with a more serious security threat as the warehouses of Pharmaceutical Companies dries up of Pharma stocks.
“If current estimates is anything to go by, catastrophic stock level might be reached by this June/July and with mounting erosion of integrity and obligation to meet contractual agreements with overseas suppliers, lines of supply and credit will ultimately close down and then Pharma supplies to the citizenry will be threatened,” he said.
The president therefore called on the government, “as a matter of National Emergency”, to direct its relevant organs to consider preferential allocation of vital FOREX to the Healthcare sector as a total breakdown would not augur well for the nation.
“Unfortunately, due to no problem of ours, the entirety of the pharma industry rely on importation either of, be you importers of finished formulations, or raw materials, which includes active pharma ingredients (APIs), additives, machineries and packaging materials for our local manufacturers subsector.
“Let me say that the coming on stream of the vital Petro-chemical Industry (for the precursor of APIs) which is an allied component to the Dangote Oil Refinery is indeed a good omen for the Industry. This will definitely address the issue of sourcing affordable API’s locally for the Pharma Industry in not too distant a future.”
While he affirmed the association’s confidence in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, his anti-graft war and infrastructural development, Falabi also urged the administration to come up with a National Cost Management Policy, with the hope that the economy would very soon be assailed of a breath of fresh air.
PSN President, Yakasai, reiterated that the pharmaceutical subsector remains critical as far as public health and socio-economic development of the country is concerned.
He said while the Federal Government was considering preference for some sectors, in terms of FOREX allocation at this crunchy time, the health sector must not be overlooked.
According to Yakasai: “We need it (drugs and pharmaceutical products) and all hands must be on deck. Without drugs health care is nothing. I’m appealing to the government to look at it critical and see how they can give us priority as far as consideration on foreign exchange is concern.
“I know that the government is thinking of allocating FOREX to different sectors, especially the petroleum sector. But I think after petroleum industry, the next to be considered should be the pharmaceutical sector because it is the life wire of the economy and we should all come out to bring it to the fore of investment in the country,” he said.
Economist and guest speaker at the forum, Henry Boyo, said though he agreed on the critical status of the health sector, he rather argued that health should not be singled out for support rather all sectors should be treated equally.
Boyo stressed that the economic principles that drive all the sectors are the same, adding that preferential treatments would take the country nowhere.