Peter Obi: Ex-Gov. suggests a way forward for the pharmaceutical industry

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Peter Obi has suggested the way forward for the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria

The former Governor of Anambra State has suggested ways that the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria can stand up to be counted.

The former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has commended Nigerian pharmacists for their efforts and contributions towards the health of the country but encouraged them to do more towards achieving self-sufficiency in the manufacture of drugs.

Obi who was a guest speaker at the 2017 Annual Dinner of the Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria held at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja, made some suggestions of how the industry can reposition itself and stand up to be counted.

Speaking on the theme, 'Weathering the Storm of Economic Downturn: Now and Beyond', Obi reviewed the ups and downs in the industry, and submitted that a lot still needed to be done.

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He noted that it was not cheering that countries like India and China that were at par with Nigeria in the development of the pharmaceutical industry, had all recorded phenomenal growth, while Nigeria, buffeted by the adverse environment, did not record appreciable progress.

Comparing the contribution of the industry to the economic growth of countries under reference, Obi said:

“Nigeria's GDP is 400 billion Dollars and the pharmaceutical industry contributes 0.25/0.30%, which is a maximum of 1-1.2 billion Dollars. The GDP of China is 12 trillion Dollars and its pharmaceutical industry contributes 1-1.25, being 120-150 billion Dollars.

The GDP of India is about 2.3 trillion Dollars and its pharmaceutical industry contributes about 2%, which is 40 billion Dollars.”

Obi regretted that the industry could not build on the initial progress it recorded in different areas. He used the issue of manufacture of vaccines as an example, adding:

“Nigeria owned a vaccine production laboratory way back in 1948, which produced small pox, yellow fever, and anti-rabies vaccines. It was shut down in 1980 for an upgrade and increased capacity.

Unfortunately, this never materialized with successive governments’ policy changes even after millions of Dollars was spent to bring in some sophisticated automatic freeze drying equipment.

One such equipment procured in 1995 for the sum of 1.2 million Dollars is still in a crate on the ground of the Federal Vaccines Production Laboratory in Yaba.”

Revealing that local manufacturers covered only 20% of the nation’s needs, with virtually all the raw materials being imported, Obi charged them to seek ways to cover 50% of the drug needs of the country in 10 years, by, among others, sourcing raw materials like starch locally.

He further advised the pharmacists to study the magic India used to get where they are today.

“So the question to ask is what we can learn from India on what they did yesterday that brought them to where they are today. India, for example, is currently the third largest supplier of raw materials in the world, coming from being a net importer 30 to 40 years ago.

When India decided about 30 years ago to be self-sufficient in pharmaceutical raw material, they did not have the competitive and comparative advantages they have today, they worked for it.

India and China were once where we are in terms of their importation, consequent upon not manufacturing enough for their needs. Today, they are not only producers of raw materials and finished products sufficient for their own markets, but are now major net exporters to the global markets, earning huge foreign exchange for their countries.”

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Concluding, the former Governor regretted that in the world pharmaceutical market of today which he said is worth a trillion Dollars, Nigerian manufacturers and businesses are completely shut out as they are not exporters.



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