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‘Nigeria to reduce reliance on importation of pharmaceutical products’

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, has assured Nigerians that days of relying on the importation of pharmaceutical products would soon be reduced to the barest minimum.

He gave the assurance on Monday in Abuja, at a high-level dialogue meant to ‘Address the Technology Gaps in Nigeria’s Pharmaceutical and Vaccine Industries.’

The dialogue was organised by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in collaboration with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation and the World Health Organisation.

According to Alausa, the assertion is based on the steps taken so far on the implementation of the National Plan for Vaccine Research and Development and Local Production 2024-2034, which was inaugurated in February.

The minister explained that the national plan, which had adopted a mixed method approach, was developed to address the insufficiency Nigeria and other African countries suffered due to the lack of locally made vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “You will recall that the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise, the impact was felt globally, including in most advanced countries.

“The lessons from the pandemic cannot be forgotten in a hurry, including the scramble for COVID-19 vaccines by developed nations. As you are aware, Nigeria, like many other African countries, was affected due to the inability to manufacture vaccines locally.

“In the light of this, the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, went ahead to develop a vaccine policy in order to be proactive in achieving sustainable local manufacturing of vaccines.

“The national plan is embedded with nine change strategies for prioritisation in order to achieve sustainable local manufacturing of vaccines in Nigeria.

“Two among these nine change strategies are clearly reflected in the objective of this event. One of the change strategies is about intellectual property while the other is technology sophistication and knowledge transfer.”

Dr Alausa also said that the dialogue brought together relevant stakeholders to synthesise ideas and solutions for the robust and contextual strategies that would expedite technology transfer for local manufacturing of medicine and vaccines.

He added, “This approach will provide a strong foundation that supports harnessing of local capacity to meet the health care needs of the population.

“The intervention also stimulates local research and development activities for pharmaceuticals and other healthcare commodities.”

The Chief Executive Officer of APTF, Professor Padmashere Sampath, said that a lot of things are responsible for the low availability and high prices of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.

According to her, the lack of domestic producers, who could produce in ample quantities, was one of the primary reasons why it is impossible to have the kind of competition that would help crash the prices of commodities.

She said, “A second reason is that a lot of drugs currently being sold in the Nigerian market are sold by international producers and these producers either sell patented versions of the drugs or maybe branded generics.

Sampath said that having drugs at lower prices frees up the public health budget to help the health systems become more robust for pandemic preparedness.

This, according to her, would enable people to be treated and give better resilience to the healthcare system.

On his part, the Director-General of NIPRD, Dr Obi Adigwe, said that it was predicated in the national plan that at least three companies should emerge during the 10-year period of the plan.

He said presently, there were already three companies that have indicated interest and based on their past records, they would successfully manufacture vaccines within the next 24 to 36 months.

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