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Coronavirus: Nigeria’s antibiotics imports rise to N396bn in 3 months

Nigeria imported N395.6 billion worth of antibiotics in the first quarter of 2021.

The level of importation recorded on antibiotics aroused the interest of industry watchers because it represents 145 percent and 219 percent increase over N124.1 billion and N161.2 billion worth of antibiotics imported into Nigeria in the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

Consistently, the Netherlands served as the highest source of this product in the three quarters under consideration, that is, Q3 and Q4 2020, as well as Q1 2021.

Read also: COVID-19: Nigeria identifies 10 cases of Delta variant

Specifically, in the third quarter of 2020 when the total antibiotics importation was valued at N124.06 billion, Nigeria’s pharmaceutical products’ importers sourced N78.11 billion worth of antibiotics from the Netherlands, representing 63 percent of the total value of antibiotics brought into this country during that period.

Between October and December 2020 when N161.2 billion worth of antibiotics were imported, 67 percent or N107.8 billion worth of antibiotics were sourced from the Netherlands while in the first quarter of 2021, 83 percent or N329.22 billion out of N395.6 billion was imported from the same country.

Nigeria has tested 2.44 million samples for COVID 19 since the index case was recorded in February 2020. Out of this, 171,728 have been confirmed with 4,747 active cases while 164,847 individuals have been discharged. So far, the country has recorded 2,134 deaths as at July 28, 2021.

In terms of vaccination, only 1.4 million individuals have been fully vaccinated, representing 0.7 percent of the population. This compares to 7.1 percent fully vaccinated in India; 49.8 percent fully vaccinated in the United States and 18.4 percent fully vaccinated in Brazil.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), one of the world’s leading sources of international trade data, the antibiotics market was worth $16.1 billion in 2019, with Switzerland the foremost exporter while the United States of America (USA) is the highest user of the product.

OEC’s historical data shows that Switzerland controls 9.72 percent of the global antibiotics export market, followed by Canada, 9.27 percent; Germany, 9.19 percent; Italy, 9.09 percent; India, 7.24 percent and Belgium, 7.05 percent.

On the import side, the United States tops the table, accounting for 18.2 percent of the global antibiotics import trade. It is followed by Switzerland, 10.6 percent; Belgium, 5.92 percent; China, 5.46 percent and Russia, 3.51 percent. The Netherlands accounts for 2.17 percent of the global antibiotics import trade worth $350 million.

Experts in the medical and pharmaceutical fields have attributed the surge in antibiotics imports to a number of factors including the depletion of stocks in 2020 due to the lockdown, different waves of COVID 19 and lately, the emergence of the deadly Delta variant which was first discovered in India in December 2020.

“Healthcare centres are expected to have medicines that will last them for about six months. The lockdown by different countries last year prevented them from restocking above their re-order levels, and as a result, their stock level was depleted last year.

“With different waves of COVID 19, the emergence of Delta variant, low vaccinations in Nigeria, importers were only being proactive in case countries across the world impose another round of restrictions. Devaluation is another factor”, a medical doctor who pleaded anonymity, said.

Apart from the Netherlands, other countries, where antibiotics were imported between July 2020 and March 2021, were India, China, United Arab Emirates, France, and Spain.

Meanwhile, Babatunde Olayiwola, a community pharmacist with Minarets Pharmacy Limited in Ibadan attributed the surge in the demand for antibiotics to increased respiratory infections in recent times.

“The pandemic, drug distribution mechanism, access to drugs through unauthorized sources, climate change are factors responsible for this development. People readily come down with cold, catarrh, and cough. Yesterday, I compared with a colleague who affirmed spikes in these complaints”, Olayiwola said.

Concerning the specific antibiotics witnessing increasing demand, he listed brands such as augmentin, zinnat, azithromycin, clarithromycin, cefixime, and ampiclox, among others. He, therefore, enjoined the public to get their drugs from registered pharmacies nationwide.

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