The federal government has taken steps to provide Nigerians access to cheaper medicines.
Accordingly, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to fashion out how medicines and livestock drugs can be made available to the Nigerian public at a fraction of the prevailing prices.
Receiving the executive board members of a pharmaceutical company, Graham Foggs Ltd, at the presidential villa, Abuja, yesterday, Buhari reiterated his commitment to the improvement of the quality of the lives of Nigerians.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, noted that the president directed the ministers of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole and that of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Audu Ogbeh, to work with the pharmaceutical company, “short-circuit disruptive bureaucracy, and brief me from time to time.”
Newsmen report that the pharmaceutical company, led by Chief Sam Nda-Isaiah, a pharmacist and newspaper publisher seeks to make essential medicines and livestock drugs available to the public at significantly reduced prices.
“It has been established that 70 per cent of Nigerians cannot afford modern medicines produced by multinational pharmaceutical companies due to their high prices,” Nda-Isaiah said, noting that most of the pharmaceutical companies operate at less than 30 per cent of installed capacity for a very long time.
“The only break was during the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) days when drug manufacturers were achieving 80 per cent of installed capacity.”
According to him, Graham Foggs Ltd plans to bring down the prices of most of the commonly used medicines by up to 60 per cent, producing only generic medicines as against patented ones.
“This would be achieved without a single kobo subsidy from government, with Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) or bulk raw materials imported from China and India for the approved local production companies in Nigeria,” Nda-Isaiah said.
He explained that the finished products would be sold at fixed prices to achieve the objectives of the programme.
According to him, millions of jobs would be created across the country as pharmaceutical plants would be operating at near-maximum capacity for medicines of all classes including livestock drugs to boost the agricultural sector.
“The price of every medicine, including those under the health insurance scheme, will come down,” he affirmed.
Recall that President Buhari had earlier in the life of this administration reduced tariff on pharmaceutical raw materials and increased the one for finished imported products in an effort to boost the local production of medicines for the benefit of ordinary Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has appealed to President Buhari to approve the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) Bill to check drug abuse.
The president of PSN, Dr Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, made this appeal when he led a PSN team on a courtesy visit to the minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole in Abuja.
He said, “The bill is still awaiting the signature of Mr. President since it was passed last year. We are therefore requesting the full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG).
“My primary assignment is to work with you and the entire healthcare team to rein in this gross misuse and abuse, by tightening control of medicines, empowering pharmacists to play their critical role as custodians of medicines, and thereafter holding them accountable for every tablet or capsule or vial of injections produced or imported into the country.
“We appeal to you, sir, to let the president know that this is the law urgently needed to sanitise the pharmaceutical space in Nigeria and help us achieve global best standard’s for the control of medicines and the enthronement of good pharmaceutical practices,” he said.
Ohuabunwa noted the this Act would cure some of the defects in the existing law that may have been exploited by malefactors to cause harm to Nigerian patients and medicine users.
He canvassed for pharmacists to be included in hospital management boards, saying, “I believe that such boards without Pharmacists will be severely handicapped in taking decisions.”