Chief Executives of top Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Companies under the auspices of PMG-MAN recently met to review the recent directive of the CBN on FX sales to end users. The apex bank’s decision to ensure that at least 60per cent of FX sales are made to local manufacturers was acclaimed as a timely intervention to boost local manufacturing. Since local pharmaceutical manufacturing is directly linked to national healthcare, a strong argument was also presented for the immediate prioritisation of the Pharma sector, in order to maintain National health and ensure the sanctity of human lives.
Other key policies that needed pressing reforms in order to rescue the local Pharma industry and in turn safeguard National healthcare include the ECOWAS CET policy. PMG-MAN Chairman, Mr. OkeyAkpa, called on the Government to urgently address the anomaly created by CET, whereby imported medicines attract zero duty while raw and packaging materials for local manufacturing attract up to 20% duty. This, he argued was inimical to National interest. He appreciated efforts made so far in addressing the CET imbalance, but warned that the high attrition rate in the sector, and the disastrous consequences of further delays, indicated the need for Government’s imminent intervention. He added that access to Funding at single digit interest rate was another urgent intervention needed to reverse the catastrophic decline in the sector.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing sector usually considered the lifeline of the National Healthcare system has been wracked with the desperate challenges as operations in most factories have almost ground to a halt. Research over the last 18 months indicate that capacity utilisation among Pharma manufacturers is at an all-time low of 20% and over a third of PMG-MAN members have shut down production in due to lack of access to FOREX for critical raw material, mainly active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and machinery inputs.
Akpa revealed that consequences of these challenges include the current increase in cost of healthcare treatment as well as the shortage of medicines being experienced across the country. If unchecked, he predicted an unprecedented level of medicines’ scarcity, exorbitant prices and a reprehensible overdependence on drug importation, which may expose the Nation again to the menace of faking and counterfeiting.
He further argued that with the highest proportion of publicly listed healthcare companies, PMG-MAN is easily the highest employer of labour in the sector. Further closure of PMG-MAN members’ factories will throw close to one million Nigerians out of their jobs and into penury. This has started as many PMG-MAN members have drastically reduced their workforce in response to reduced production capacity necessitated by inadequate access to FX.
The successful implementation of the CBN directive to Banks to prioritise manufacturers in FX sales will boost local manufacturing, as well as improve access to medicines for Nigerians, argued Akpa. He stated that “We view this policy positively as it has the potential not only to increase Nigerians’ access to medicines, but also support massive employment in the sector, improve the economy and facilitate export of Nigerian medicines to neighbouring countries. These are cardinal objectives of the present Government.” He further added that “PMGMAN is therefore eager to partner with Government to ensure its successful implementation, particularly in the areas of research, policy monitoring, evaluation, and modification.”
The PMG-MAN Chairman immediately directed the Secretariat to develop a robust and comprehensive feedback and review mechanism. The data generated is expected to feed into the CBN’s monitoring and evaluation framework and contribute to the successful implementation of the new policy. He congratulated the Executive and the Legislature for ground-breaking policies to support patronage of locally produced medicines. He expressed hope that these policies will be faithfully implemented and pledged PMG-MAN’s support to the Government with research and intelligence to ensure that the relevant policies succeed.