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Minister Reveals How Nigeria will End Drug Crisis

As the prices of drugs soar in Nigeria, the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Tunji Alausa on Thursday in Lagos said the federal government is working on drastic measures to end the long sufferings of Nigerians in the hands of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Alausa who spoke in Lagos during the commissioning of the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos Clinical Building traced the current crisis in the pharmaceutical sector to the activities of pharmaceutical companies who come into our country only to market their products without investing in the sector.

The Minister, who said the problem did not start recently, said the present government has inherited it from previous governments.

“The problem we’ve had is that we’ve let these pharmaceutical companies come into our country. Even in their country, they do things differently. When a company comes in, they give them licenses. You can only market for five years. After five years, you are supposed to manufacture all those drugs in the country. But we just know these multinational companies come in freely. And 20 years after, 30 years after, they’re still marketing. They have not contributed to the development of the country. That’s the problem. We’re going to be busy to change that.

“We have to make some new laws, some new government policies. And if the president has to sign an executive order, trust me on this, he will do that.”

He said in the interim, the government is currently talking to the local pharmaceutical providers to see what they can do. He noted that the government was planning to convert the federal laboratory in Yaba into a lab for bioequivalence.

“These are things we need to bring API to get pharmaceutical companies to start making drugs and using activated pharmaceutical products here. Right now, a lot of the things we have is finished pharmaceutical products in our country. So it’s a kind of solution that we’re putting in place,” he stated.

He said that President Tinubu wants to fix the healthcare system and is working towards that.

“We’re working with NAFDAC to reduce the importation of counterfeit drugs into our country. We’re also working with some of the local pharmaceutical companies to increase production. And some of the companies that are planning to leave, we’re talking to them. And we’re also working on various forms of backward integration where we can encourage local manufacturing in our country. As I said, I just had a 30-minute phone call with the Minister of Trade and Investment in our country. We discussed an expansive plan on how we would strengthen our pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria.

He further disclosed that the government is mobilising funds for a medical industrialisation programme that would involve private-sector funding in Africa and the world.

Alausa who disclosed plans to increase production of healthcare workers said by the end of the year, the country will be producing 120,00 nurses annually.

On the edifice built by the FMC, Ebute Metta, Alausa expressed satisfaction at the massive projects and healthcare delivery being delivered by the Medical Director, Dr Dada Adedamola

“I’m not going to be one of the choir singers for Ebute Meta but Dr Dada is doing an amazing job. This is one of the best hospitals in the country. This hospital compares to any hospital you go to in the world. And we’re very happy that this is a public hospital, not a private hospital.

“We’re deploying more resources to infrastructure. We’re deploying more resources to equip the hospital. Getting all hospitals to have CT scans, MRI, digital x-ray, ultrasound.”

Speaking on the National Health Insurance Authority, NHIA, the minister said the government was working towards domesticating it and has launched sector-wide approach programming that would help in aggregating the resources to reduce the fragmentation that the country currently has.

On his part, the Medical Director, FMC Ebute Metta, Dr Adedamola Dada who said the building was to expand hospital services explained that the reason they created a new ophthalmology centre was due to the progressive increase in the number of ophthalmology patients.

Giving an insight into the services available in the building, he said the ophthalmology centre has two theatres and four consulting rooms, an IVF Centre designed to crash the cost of IVF in Nigeria.
“On the second floor is a 50-bedded new admission facility and cardiology lab. Some of the things we have done were to now recruit retired health workers who are still very strong, who are still very able, and they have been very useful.

“So those have helped us substantially to reduce the kind of strain we’re having some time in the past.