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Nigeria’s Pharmaceutical Imports Drop 63% in Two Years

The worsening shortage of foreign exchange in Nigeria is hurting its ability to maintain a consistent supply of drugs.

According to new data from the International Trade Centre, a multilateral agency, the importation of pharmaceutical products into Nigeria dropped for the second straight time to $1.05 billion in 2022, a 23.4 percent decline from $1.37 billion in 2021.

It also declined by 63.0 percent from $2.84 billion in 2020. Pharmaceutical exports reduced by 65.0 percent to $779 million last year.

“The industry is facing a tremendous challenge in terms of accessing foreign exchange as over the years, access to it has reduced imports, especially for raw materials,” Sam Ohuabunwa, the immediate past president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, said.

He said the decline in pharmaceutical imports is not because local production has become significant as nothing much has happened in that area.

“The devaluation of the naira led to a depression in the demand for drugs. And with high inflation and devaluation, it becomes difficult for businesses in the pharmaceutical industry to recover the price and when they try to recover it, their products become unaffordable,” Ohuabunwa said.

Read Also: Nigeria has 60 Active Pharmaceutical Industries out of 180 – Expert

According to Gabriel Idahosa, deputy president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), everything in the pharmaceutical industry is imported from raw materials to the packaging.

“The healthcare industry is in a very difficult situation now. The healthcare security of Nigerians is at jeopardy because the drugs for treating common illnesses such as malaria and cough are getting expensive by the day,” he said.

Africa’s most populous nation relies heavily on imported drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients and equipment used in drug manufacturing from China, India, Malaysia and Netherlands.

Pharma West Africa, a major pharmaceutical exhibition in Africa, said that over 70 percent of medicines in Nigeria are imported, with medicines accounting for a chunk of the country’s total healthcare spend of $10 billion.

“Out-of-pocket expenditure can be as high as 62 percent of total healthcare expenditure, mainly due to limited access to health insurance,” it said on its website.

Two economic recessions in the last seven years have weakened Nigeria’s foreign inflows, resulting in a liquidity challenge in the country’s FX market.

SOURCE: Business Day