Pharmaceutical manufacturers canvass urgent reforms to rescue sector



Pharmaceutical manufacturers in the country have called for urgent policy intervention, to rescue the local industry and in turn safeguard national healthcare delivery. They want a review of the Common External Tariff of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).

In a statement in Abuja, the manufactures, under the auspices of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (PMG-MAN) lauded the new directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on foreign exchange (FOREX) sales to end-users.

The group said the APEX bank’s decision to ensure that at least 60 per cent of forex sales are made to local manufacturers, was a timely intervention to boost local manufacturing.

The manufacturers noted that since local pharmaceutical products production is directly linked to national healthcare, the pharmaceutical sector should be priorised in order to maintain national health and ensure the sanctity of human lives.

PMG-MAN Chairman, Mr. Okey Akpa, called on the Federal Government to urgently address the anomaly created by CET, whereby imported medicines attract zero duty while raw and packaging materials for local manufacturing attract up to 20 per cent duty. This, he argued was inimical to National interest.

Akpa commended efforts made so far in addressing the CET imbalance, but warned that the high attrition rate in the sector, and the disastrous consequences of further delays point to the need for government’s urgent intervention.

He added that access to funding at single digit interest rate was another urgent intervention needed, to reverse the catastrophic decline in the sector.

Statistics from the group indicate a downward fortune for the sector in the last 18 months.

Capacity utilisation among pharmaceutical manufacturers is put at an all-time low of 20 per cent while the operators say over a third of their members have shut down production due to lack of access to FOREX, for critical raw material, mainly Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and machinery inputs.

Akpa stressed the consequences of these challenges to include the current increase in cost of healthcare treatment, as well as the shortage of medicines being experienced across the country.

He predicted that if unchecked there could be unprecedented level of scarcity of medicines, exorbitant prices and a reprehensible overdependence on drug importation.

This he said could expose the nation again to the menace of faking and counterfeiting.

He further argued that with the highest proportion of publicly listed healthcare companies, PMG-MAN is easily the highest employer of labour in the sector.

Further closure of PMG-MAN members’ factories will throw close to one million Nigerians out of their jobs and into penury,” he added. He pointed out that many members had drastically reduced their workforce in response to reduced production capacity necessitated by inadequate access to forex.

“The successful implementation of the CBN directive to Banks to prioritise manufacturers in forex sales will boost local manufacturing, as well as improve access to medicines for Nigerians,” he stressed.

His words: “We view this policy positively as it has the potential not only to increase Nigerians’ access to medicines, but also support massive employment in the sector, improve the economy and facilitate export of Nigerian medicines to neighbouring countries. These are cardinal objectives of the present government.

“PMG-MAN is therefore eager to partner with government to ensure its successful implementation, particularly in the areas of research, policy monitoring, evaluation, and modification.”

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