Posted on: Fri 09-02-2024

President of the Federation of Nigeria Pharmaceutical Industry Associations, FeNPIA, Dr. Okey Akpa has said that based on extant fiscal Policy, raw materials for pharmaceutical products should be VAT–free.

Akpa posited that this should be sustained as against the recent push by the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, to introduce VAT to some Pharmaceutical raw materials and even some Finished Pharmaceutical Products.

According to him, the high tariff on some pharmaceutical manufacturing inputs needs to be urgently reviewed downwards as this will help further reduce the cost of drugs.

He called for a coordinated and strategic procurement process which could be by way of pooled procurement or public–private partnership in the medicine supply chain, as is being practiced currently between some states and members of the pharmaceutical Industry.

Also, speaking on behalf of over 35,000 Nigerian Pharmacists in Nigeria, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Prof Cyril O. Usifoh in a letter entitled: “Urgent Matters Affecting Pharmacists and Healthcare Provision” alleged that the availability of essential drugs in government hospitals is being hindered by interference in the Drug Revolving Fund, DRF, by Chief Medical Directors, resulting in receivables and creating an urgent need for restoration.

“We thank you for the directive in a recent memo (FMOH/PS/899/I/225) dated 24th January 2024 to all the Chief Medical Directors/Medical Directors of the Federal Tertiary Hospitals to reverse the sorry state of DRF in our tertiary healthcare facilities across the board. I believe strongly this will address the current state of indebtedness to Pharmaceutical Companies and we would be much obliged for swift intervention to tackle this challenge and restore the efficient operation of the Drug Revolving Fund, thereby ensuring uninterrupted access to vital medications for the public. Usifoh also demanded that the Drug Management Agency (DMA) should oversee the efficient coordination, distribution, and availability of essential medicines.

“An emphasis on public-private partnerships through DMAs will further enhance the affordability, accessibility, and availability of these crucial medications, aligning to strengthen the healthcare system and improve overall public health.”

He also urged the minister to encourage collaboration and teamwork in Healthcare, adding that: “Medicine and Pharmacy have always been like identical twins, but each profession has its critical personality and roles in healthcare delivery. In our pursuit of addressing these critical issues, we believe in fostering a positive approach and recognizing the significance of teamwork within the healthcare sector. It is vital to encourage the maximization of roles for each professional in the health team, as collaboration and coordination are key to unlocking the value chain in healthcare delivery.

“We appeal to the Minister to ensure that the Consultant Pharmacists policy is approved and gazette should be fully implemented by all the Federal Health Institutions to maximize the growing contributions of Pharmacists. In summary, addressing these concerns will not only improve the working environment for pharmacists but will also have a direct positive impact on public health services as a whole.”

He said the appointment of the minister brings great optimism for the future, and they look forward to witnessing the positive impact of his leadership on the Pharmacy profession in particular and healthcare in general. Responding to their demands, Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, said the President is putting everything in place to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry thrives and that Nigeria has affordable and safe commodities to improve the health of the population of this country.

“We have listened to players in the industry on what needs to be done and the president has directed the attorney general to develop an executive order. Nigerians should be assured that President Tinubu is listening; he is concerned about the issues that affect their welfare. We already appropriate resources for the procurement of critical medicines that will bring succor to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians,” Pate assured.

On the high cost of drugs, the minister asserted that the cost of pharmaceutical products has skyrocketed in the last few months, globally, because there is a shortage of APIs, adding, “As the western world is struggling to resolve their issues, we too are putting in place mechanisms to procure and also engage with the local manufacturers, so that we can begin to provide solutions.”

On exits of pharmaceutical companies, Pate assured that Nigeria has a very vibrant local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and that, many foreign pharmaceutical companies have shown interest in entering the Nigerian market.

“In the last three months, at least, three major players are exploring the opportunities to come and manufacture in Nigeria. We do hope that many others will follow suit. Our local industry will thrive. It is not easy at this point, but we are very confident, that the industry will be able to weather the difficulties of today.”

On the issue of VAT on raw materials and imported products, the minister said, “We have a listening government and we are taking actions to see how we can reduce the burden. Our objective is to have our local manufacturers thrive.”

Speaking, former minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, added, “As we look forward to a pharmaceutical industry that will make drugs available, accessible, and affordable, I appeal to the federal government to encourage the players in the industry by addressing these challenges highlighted so far, review obsolete laws that are hindering the growth of the industry and invest in R&D, among others.”