Senate, Funds, Donor Agencies, Money
An image signifying the N5.7 bn that was mismanaged by Ministry officials.

Pharmaceutical Stakeholders Seek N600bn Intervention Fund for Local Manufacturing

The Federation of Nigeria Pharmaceutical Industry Associations is proposing the creation of N600bn Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Development Fund at five per cent interest over a minimum of seven to 10-year tenure.

In a statement on Monday, the group made the call during a forum hosted by FeNPIA in honour of the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate.

The group said the fund would support the local production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, vaccines, critical supply chain interventions, and Research & Development among others

Speaking during the event, the President of FeNPIA, Dr. Okey Akpa, enumerated the various factors that inhibit the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria.

Akpa explained that the fund would help strengthen the local pharmaceutical industry and reduce the high cost of drugs, making drugs available, accessible, and affordable for all Nigerians.

“These funds will also fast-track Nigeria into becoming a natural hub for the pharma industry in Africa, with benefits ranging from healthcare to forex earnings and contribution to gross domestic product and employment,” the president added.

He urged the Federal Government to take decisive measures to tackle the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry causing the recent scarcity of drugs and the attendant high costs.

Akpa said that factors include foreign exchange limitations the need for a coordinated and strategic procurement process, and policy inconsistency & implementation among others.

The FeNPIA is an association representing the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry devoted to promoting the growth and sustainability of the industry, striving for Nigeria’s self-reliance in producing healthcare products adhering to global quality standards.

In 2023, GlaxoSmithKline, a British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company has announced plans to exit Nigeria, after 51 years of operation in Nigeria. This is even as other big pharmaceuticals announced plans to exit the country.

Akpa however, called for a coordinated and strategic procurement process which could be by way of pooled procurement or public-private partnership in the medicine supply chain, “as is being practised currently between some states and members of the pharmaceutical Industry,”

“There is a need to foster strong collaboration between the National Health Insurance Authority, local manufacturers, and overseas pharmaceutical distributors/importers to achieve Universal Health Coverage in line with the National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022,” he suggested.

Addressing the issue of tariffs on pharmaceutical machinery, types of equipment, and raw materials, he revealed that these items attract 5 per cent to as high as 25 per cent in some cases.

Akpa proposed a zero per cent duty rate for local manufacturers on pharma machinery, equipment, and accessories, to drive the growth of the industry.

”Based on extant fiscal policy, raw materials for pharmaceutical products are to be value-added-tax free and this should be sustained as against the recent push by the Nigeria Customs Service to introduce VAT to some pharmaceutical raw materials and even some finished pharmaceutical products. The high tariff on some pharmaceutical manufacturing inputs needs to be urgently reviewed downwards as this will help further reduce the cost of drugs,” he added.

Responding to their demands, Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, said the President was putting everything in place to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry thrives and that Nigeria has affordable and safe commodities to improve the health of her citizens.

“We have listened to players in the industry on what needs to be done and the president has directed the attorney general to develop an executive order. Nigerians should be assured that President Tinubu is listening; he is concerned about the issues that affect their welfare. We already appropriate resources for the procurement of critical medicines that will bring succor to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians,” Pate assured.

On the high cost of drugs, the minister asserted that the cost of pharmaceutical products had skyrocketed in the last few months, globally, due to the shortage of APIs, adding that “as the Western world is struggling to resolve their issues, we too are putting in place mechanisms to procure and also engage with the local manufacturers so that we can begin to provide solutions.”

On the exits of pharmaceutical companies, Pate assured stakeholders that Nigeria has a very vibrant local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, stressing that many foreign pharmaceutical companies had shown interest in entering the Nigerian market.

“In the last three months, at least, three major players are exploring the opportunities to come and manufacture in Nigeria. We do hope that many others will follow suit. Our local industry will thrive. It is not easy at this point, but we are very confident, that the industry will be able to weather the difficulties of today,” he added.

On the issue of VAT on raw materials and imported products, the minister said, “We have a listening government, and we are taking actions to see how we can reduce the burden. Our objective is to have our local manufacturers thrive.”

Earlier, the former Minister of Health, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, had added, “As we look forward to a pharmaceutical industry that will make drugs available, accessible, and affordable, I appeal to the Federal Government to encourage the players in the industry by addressing these challenges highlighted so far, review obsolete laws that are hindering the growth of the industry and invest in R&D, among others,”