President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

FG Unveils Plan to Curb Rising Cost of Pharmaceuticals

President Bola Tinubu, at the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, endorsed three resolutions to tackle the rising cost of pharmaceuticals in the country to avail Nigerians easier access to healthcare.

The council also agreed to implement three “far-reaching decisions” to stem the escalating costs of health devices, such as syringes and needles, and the exit of major manufacturers from the country.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, announced this while briefing State House Correspondents after the first council meeting of 2024, chaired by President Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa Abuja.

Pate noted that the council had directed the Attorney-General of the Federation to develop executive orders to guarantee the survival of local manufacturers.

He added that specific measures had been implemented to address the rising expenses of pharmaceuticals, provide financial support to health sector regulatory bodies and alleviate the issue of health care professionals leaving the sector, described as the japa wave.

According to Pate, the purpose of the Executive Order is to facilitate the growth of local drug manufacturers and ensure equitable pricing of vital medications.

He explained that this action is deemed necessary due to the departure of prominent global pharmaceutical corporations from Nigeria, resulting in less competition.

“Today at the Federal Executive Council, Mr. President took three far-reaching decisions relating to the health sector.

“The first is on the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, the hike in prices that we have in the pharmaceutical, which is going beyond the reach of many Nigerians, life-saving commodities, devices like syringes and needles and the exit of major companies from our market.

“Those decisions also include the regulation of the sector to protect the health and well-being of humans and the third decision is regarding how we deal with the crisis of human resources in the health sector,” the minister explained.

Describing Wednesday’s move as the first on syringes, drugs, pharmaceuticals and other devices, he recalled the President’s approval of an initiative to unlock the health care value chain and appoint a coordinator to that effect.

He added, “But we know that the price of pharmaceuticals has escalated and many entities have decided to withdraw and some of the local manufacturers in Nigeria are struggling.

“The President intends that we begin to take steps to enable the local manufacturers to survive, thrive and deliver the essential commodities that are key to saving their lives.

“And he directed that the Attorney-General of the Federation work with us to come up with an Executive Order, which is the mechanism through which he will act, given the concern that he has that many Nigerians are suffering from the costs of pharmaceuticals and other devices. That is the first important step, which should be coming soon.”

To strengthen health care regulation and protect citizens, the minister also revealed that key regulatory bodies, including the Medical and Dental Council, would continue to receive funding, except from cuts impacting other professional associations.

On the shortage of health care workers, Pate said the Council had delegated approval of recruitment waivers to the health ministry directly, explaining that this would accelerate hiring and reduce delays.

He explained, “The third is regarding our acute human resource shortage. Having gone around many of our hospitals, particularly federal tertiary hospitals, we know that replacing health workers who leave often takes a very long time because the waiver process takes several stages.

“Mr. President directed in Council that the approvals of those waivers be delegated to the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare so that they don’t have to go through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.”

He said this would “hasten the recruitment of health workers in terms of those who are unemployed, within limits of their fiscal resources.”