By G9ija

The President, Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), Dr Anthony Ikeme, has urged the Federal Government to develop and execute a blueprint for the economic development of the pharmaceutical industry.

He spoke in Kano while delivering his keynote address on “Advancing industrial pharmacy sector in a volatile economy” at the 23rd Annual National Conference of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP).

Ikeme, who delivered his virtual address from the United States (US), said a long overdue blueprint had become more pressing, following the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further exposed weaknesses in the healthcare system.

“Perhaps our greatest failure is in the lack of an actively executed National Strategy for Nigeria’s Pharmaceutical Economic Sector Development,” Dr Ikeme said. “Nigeria must come up with a deliberate and actively executed National Strategy for Pharmaceutical Economic Sector Development. Nothing less will do,” he said.

He explained that such bold step is needed now to ensure the country develops a robust and globally competitive pharmaceutical sector that can take advantage of the coronavirus-induced global supply deficiencies. “We must robustly and efficiently deploy all facets of our national human resource asset and machinery towards achieving our national pharmaceutical sector strategy,” he said.

Dr Ikeme assured of the support of NAPPSA and other diaspora groups for the actualisation of such strategy in the form of direct investment, skill and knowledge transfer through trainings and mentorship and facilitation of institutional and organizational relationships between their institutions in diaspora and local pharmaceutical companies.

According to him, COVID-19 has exposed the grave danger of global over-reliance on China for most medical and pharmaceutical supplies. Such reliance exposes the country to grave security risks and vulnerabilities, weakens the ability to develop the pharmaceutical sector, and constitute a huge drain on foreign reserves, he said.

“The Nigerian pharma market is a market for foreign products with almost total dependence on imports from China and India worth an estimated $600 million (about N276 billion) yearly,” Dr Ikeme said.

He lauded the Pharmacity Vision of NAIP and explained how a national pharmaceutical strategy can help the country actualize that vision and build a strong and viable pharmaceutical industry that can compete globally. The NAPPSA chief said a well-articulated strategy will address inherent challenges such as “underdeveloped capabilities for research and development (R&D),innovation, investments, manufacturing, low uptake of pharmaceutical technology and funding.”

He cited examples of how Biomedical Science Initiative in 2000 by Singapore and Biotechnology Development Plan in 1998 by South Korea helped these countries become self-reliant in pharmaceuticals, and believes Nigeria can do same with the right policy, incentives, and investments. The keynote speech followed the welcome address by officers of NAIP, including its National Chairman, Pharm Ignatius Anukwu, and the Kano State chairman Pharm Gidado Yusuf. There was also a short address by President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa. Pharm Anukwu said this year’s conference “seeks to consolidate the gains made in its advocacy for the establishment of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Parks” as NAIP strives to engender an enduring and virile pharmaceutical industry.

Maxi Ohuabunwa had commended NAIP for its central role, over the years, in the pursuit of the industry’s cardinal objectives of improving local content, “improving local value addition to take us away from a country almost completely dependent on essential medicines and healthcare supplies to a country that has a reasonable level of self-sufficiency.”