The former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, has commended Nigerian pharmacists for their efforts and contributions towards the health of the country, but encouraged them to do more towards achieving self-sufficiency in the manufacture of drugs.
Obi was speaking on the theme, “Weathering the Storm of Economic Downturn: Now and Beyond”, at the 2017 Annual Dinner of the Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria held at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja.
Reviewing the ups and downs in the industry, he submitted that a lot still needed to be done. He said it was not cheering that countries like India and China that were at par with Nigeria in the development of the pharmaceutical industry had all recorded phenomenal growth, while Nigeria, buffeted by adverse environment, did not record appreciable progress.
Comparing the contribution of the industry to the economic growth of countries under reference, Obi said: “Nigeria GDP is 400 Billion Dollars and the pharmaceutical industry contributes 0.25/0.30%, which is a maximum of 1 - 1.2 Billion Dollars. The GDP of China is 12 Trillion Dollars and its pharmaceutical industry contributes 1 - 1.25, being 120-150 Billion Dollars. The GDP of India is about 2.3 Trillion Dollars and its pharmaceutical industry contributes about 2% (40 Billion Dollars).”
Obi regretted that the industry could not build on the initial progress it recorded in different areas. He used the issue of manufacture of vaccines as an example, saying: “Nigeria owned a vaccine Production Laboratory way back in 1948, which produced small box, yellow fever and anti-rabies vaccines. It was shut down in 1980 for upgrade and increased capacity.
Unfortunately, this never materialised with successive governments’ policy changes even after millions of US Dollars was spent to bring in some sophisticated automatic freeze drying equipment. One such equipment procured in 1995 for the sum of US dollar 1.2 Million is still in a crate on the ground of the Federal Vaccines Production Laboratory in Yaba.”
Revealing that local manufacturers covered only 20% of the nation’s needs, with virtually all the raw materials being imported, Obi charged them to seek ways to cover 50% of the drug needs of the country in 10 years, by, among others, sourcing raw materials like starch locally.
He further advised them to study by what magic India got where they are today. His words: “So the question to ask is what we can learn from India on what they did yesterday that brought them to where they are today. India, for example, is currently the 3rd largest supplier of raw materials in the world, coming from being a net importer 30 to 40 years ago. When India decided about 30 years ago to be self-sufficient in pharmaceutical raw material, they did not have the competitive and comparative advantages they have today, they worked for it.”
Reminiscing on their success, Obi said: “India and China where once where we are in terms of their importation, consequent upon not manufacturing enough for their needs. Today, they are not only producers of raw materials and finished products sufficient for their own markets, but are now major net exporters to the global markets, earning huge foreign exchange for their countries.”
Concluding, the former Governor regretted that in the world Pharmaceutical market of today which he said worth a Trillion Dollars, that Nigerian manufacturers and businesses are completely shut out as they are not exporters.