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Nigeria needs to combat fake drugs and ageing facilities Posted 14/06/2013

Nigeria has ageing drug-manufacturing facilities and a problem with imports of fake drugs, according to Mr Olakunle Ekundayo, Group Managing Director, Drugfield Pharmaceuticals.

The Nigerian pharmaceutical market was estimated to be between US$600–740 million in 2009. Of this total, generics made up between US$266–418 million, over-the-counter drugs between US$296–121 million and brand-name medications between US$61–177.6 million.

Despite this buoyant market, however, drug manufacturers in the country are faced with several problems, including ageing facilities, high import duties and counterfeit products, as well as difficulty in meeting World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification programme criteria.

Most of the drug manufacturing facilities in Nigeria are very old. For example, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals took over a factory from Pfizer that was built in 1976. But even more recently built facilities, such as that of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, which started production in 1985, need to be upgraded due to the changing requirements for pharmaceuticals. This only adds to the companies’ problems of meeting WHO prequalification programme criteria.

The government has set up the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Development Fund (NPDF) to try to boost local production of medicines and to help companies meet current good manufacturing practice requirements. The only problem is that the fund does not help Nigerian pharmaceutical companies to be WHO pre-qualified.

Another problem is that fake copies of products that are manufactured by Nigerian pharmaceutical companies are being imported into Nigeria from China and India. The country has been battling this problem for three to four years already. The low disposable income of the population is fuelling the market for low cost fake products. And these products are often of substandard quality and may even not contain any active ingredient or could even be harmful.

Finally, some of the ingredients that are used for medicine manufacturing, including packaging materials that cannot be made in Nigeria, attract as much as 20% import duties. But if the company brings in the same materials as a finished product this attracts an import duty of only 10%. This is discouraging local firms from producing drugs in the country but rather encouraging them to import final products instead. This is a concern, as Nigeria already imports about 70–80% of the drugs it uses and only manufacturers about 30% locally.

Despite the problems, some Nigerian pharmaceutical companies, such as Evans, SWIPHA, CHI Pharmaceuticals, May and Baker, and Fidson Healthcare are in the process of upgrading and/or building new facilities in preparation to meet WHO prequalification programme requirements, which it is believed will also promote local production.

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Source: Business Daily, Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Nigerian Tribune

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