…says domestic manufacturing of APIs essential for national growth

By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja.

The Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Thursday, said that Nigeria lacks Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, API, to be one of the world’s manufactures of Vaccines.

He stated that even though the ministry has been working seamlessly to facilitate vaccine production in Nigeria, the process has been stiffled with paucity of APIs in the country.

Speaking during a national symposium on how to make Nigeria self-dependent on the manufacture of antiretroviral medicines and Vaccines for HIV, COVID-19, organised by the INGO Third Sector Resource, in collaboration with African Business Roundtable and Phoenix Africa, the Minister, who was represented by the Director of Food and Drugs Services in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Olubunmi Aribeana, urged the country to aim at becoming pharmaceutically independent and self-reliant to gain adequate local capacity to produce essential medical products and commodities.

She said: “the ministry has been having sleepless nights on how to take off as a nation in the production of vaccines. We have been trying with so many other partners around the country and outside the country to ensure that this achievement materializes within the shortest possible time.

“The way forward, is seeing how we can partner with any relevant organisation and to ensure that the opportunities being given to us by WHO, is not wasted. However, I want to say that in the area of vaccine manufacture, there are two components: we have the research and development; we also have the local production. So, we have institutions who are already working tirelessly on research and development. We have NIMA; we have science and technology; and then we have the government who is supporting then with everything they have to do.

“On the local vaccine manufacture, we have our TPM, BVNL and we have some upcoming companies in Nigeria, who are also looking at that. We believe that within the shortest possible time, the acceleration of Local vaccine manufacturing will be achieved.

“But most importantly, we have a major issue in Nigeria, which is the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients. We want to be a local manufacturing function. But, the sad note is that the active ingredients for which we all want to start our production is imported.

“I look forward to seeing a country where the local APIs are manufactured here. Once we have the APIs right here, local manufacture will be seamless, but we are in a situation when we spend currency trying to get the local components, only to couple them here we become couplers, only to couple them here. I don’t think we are working towards being self-sufficient because in terms of pandemic we saw the supply chain issue during COVID-19.

“The local ingredients will not come. So whether you have the best of plants in Nigeria, you will still be where we are because you do not have the local materials to produce.

“For the regulatory agency which is NAFDAC, NAFDAC has worked so hard in the last 2 years, they may not be marketing themselves. They may not be advocating so much. But NAFDAC has worked the extent that the Level three certifications in no time by God’s grace will be given to them.

“They have done everything it would take as a country for us to get that level 3 certification. What does that imply that we can produce vaccines in this country that it will be used within Nigeria.”

MEANWHILE, the Director of Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo while presenting his remarks, assured that the Ministry is motivated to contributing it’s quota in ensuring that there is all-round development of the health industry in Nigeria.

The Minister who was, however, represented by the Deputy Director of Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Mohammed Bala, in a bid to achieve a more developed health care sector in the production of vaccines, said it is developing a policy framework which would facilitate the manufacturing of drugs, conventional and herbal vaccine, medical instruments diagnostics in the country.

“The federal ministry of industry trade and investment is in the process of developing the policy framework. Help Industry Corporation of Nigeria for the development of the entire health industry.

“The policy framework will facilitate the development of capacity process of self efficiency in the manufacture of drugs, conventional and herbal vaccine, medical instruments diagnostics and product as well as sustainable health industry that is locally endowed and internationally recognised.

“As you’re aware, the global economy has been faced with setback and it’s good through weak and uncertain gaps in settling down to the last few years.

“The Federal Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment is ready to support the aspiration of this symposium as well as to support the decentralisation of investment in the health sector.”

On his part, the Hon. Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, represented by Pharm. David Erabhalemon, stated that it was high time the federal government encouraged the local manufacturing of APIs to make Nigeria less dependent on importation of pharmaceutical raw materials.

He pointed that while deliberate policies should be put in place to boost health technology, FG should develop a more robust engagement framework for encouraging Pharma companies and other stakeholders in the domestic production of ARVs, Vaccines and other medicines

He said: “It is important to formulate appropriate policies and implement them strictly, if we are to be self-reliant as opposed to the current excessive reliance on imported medicines.

“It is important to formulate appropriate policies and implement them strictly, if we are to be self-reliant as opposed to the current excessive reliance on imported medicines.

“Deliberate policies to boost health technology transfer should be formulated and implemented as soon as possible. There is an urgent need to encourage the local manufacturing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) to make Nigeria less dependent on importation of pharmaceutical raw materials.

“There is also an urgent need to facilitate local manufacture of Antiretroviral (ARVs) medicines and vaccines for People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) and other vaccine preventable diseases, with an aim to supplying local and international markets.

“A roadmap for local production of ARVs in Nigeria with timelines and peer review mechanism be set up, as well as tax breaks, zero import duty and easier access to foreign exchange for purchase of machinery and raw materials.

“There is urgent need to strengthen the building blocks of Nigeria’s Healthcare System with emphasis on indigenous production of vaccines and allied health materials, and AfCFTA provides an opportunity to achieve this objective. In the light of this, there is need for innovation and creativity in putting Nigeria Heath System on the global map for healthcare provision thereby conserving the funds otherwise used for health tourism and importation of medicines.”

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