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Rural areas often face a lack of essential healthcare services.

Members of the Society for Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing of Nigeria (SPSMN) have appealed to the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, come up with long-term funding support for the pharmaceutical sector to save it from collapse.

The SPSMN members maintained that the pharmaceutical sector had to be supported long-term by the government for the sector to witness growth and for the key players to remain in business.

The society is an inclusive umbrella organisation focused on pharmaceutical sales and marketing in Nigeria and it includes pharmacists and non-pharmacists working in the department of sales and marketing.

Experts in the pharmaceutical industry say the massive devaluation of the naira and the unfriendly business environment are adversely affecting Nigeria’s pharmaceutical sector and its profitability.

According to them, instead of the sector improving, things are getting worse as more pharmaceutical companies keep folding up.

Of late, the pharmaceutical industry has been facing a serious crisis, which has been attributed to the country’s harsh business environment occasioned by the paucity of forex, high inflation rate, and high loan interest repayment rate.

In August 2023, British multinational drugmaker and biotechnology company, GlaxoSmithKline, announced its exit from Nigeria.

Speaking at an event in Lagos titled, ‘2024 Economic and Environment Forecast and Analysis’, organised by the society, the president of SPSMN, Tunde Oyeniran, a pharmacist, said the government had to be deliberate about funding for the pharmaceutical sector by setting money aside every year to support the sector.

Oyeniran said,” The government needs a long-term policy of making it possible for us to go into primary and secondary manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. That means you need to support that industry as a deliberate policy.

“The case in question was India. The Government of India decided to support the pharmaceutical industry more than 25 years ago and that is where we are today.

“You can’t borrow money at double digit, three digit and you expect that you will be able to do it.”

Continuing, the pharmacist said, “When you want to do research, it takes 10 to 15 years. Now bankers borrow you money and they expect you to bring their money in three months.

“There is a need for long-term support, especially funding from the government and it has to be deliberate where a certain amount is set aside every year to support the pharmaceutical industry. That is a long-term thing.

“If anybody tells you that things are going to get ready tomorrow, it’s a lie. When you look at the pharmaceutical industry, the raw materials and the equipment are all imported and that is why they are subjected to the value of dollars because they are imported.”

He called for the manufacturing of small machines in Nigeria used in the pharmaceutical sector to reduce importation and the impact of forex scarcity.

“We can also create pharmaceutical parks where we are going to have pharmaceutical industry, suppliers, service providers, manufacturers in one”, he added.

Oyeniran urged members of the society to embrace technology and partnership if they still want to remain relevant in the sector.

He counselled, “Every medical representative should try and leverage technology to be able to lower his cost. You can get the order from WhatsApp, you can create relationships on WhatsApp. Don’t be afraid of a crisis, everything is expensive.

“So, reps should not be afraid of a crisis because we are in business and we cannot die and if we die, then where is the business again?

“Reps also need to focus on building relationships. They also need to be good in what they are doing in terms of knowledge and practice.

“Finally, we are in survival mode. Things will get better. But you need to wait and be alive because once you are out of the industry, you cannot do well.”

The Keynote Speaker and Director, Old Mutual Insurance Plc, Olanike Kolawole, urged the government to collaborate with the private sector and improve health insurance to reduce out–of–pocket payments for health care in the country.

Kolawole, who is also a pharmacist, noted, “2014 is going to be tough, so members have to up their game. It can’t be business as usual.

“You need to plan very well. You need technology to drive your business right now. For you to scale up, you can’t do business as usual. You have to scale up with technology and have a digital presence and e-commerce to drive your business right now.

“To drive the health sector, we need collaboration between the government and private sector.”