Local pharmaceutical firms are embarking on aggressive expansion programmes and projects as their appetite to gain some share in the global market keeps rising.
Many of the firms are also introducing innovations in product packaging, with a view to changing the perception of locally made drugs in the global market.
These expansion programmes and innovations are targeted at obtaining the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s pre-qualification and certification for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), which is a prerequsite for global competitiveness.
With the WHO certification, local pharmaceutical firms can confidently put their drugs on the shelves of any country in Europe, the Americas, Asia and other parts of the world.
“We are in line to obtain the WHO GMP certification for our facility and pre-qualification for our products, and hopefully, with these, the gate into the global pharmaceutical market will open for us,” said Nnamdi Okafor, managing director, May&Baker( M&B) plc, in Lagos.
“We began an expansion and diversification programme in 2005 which gave rise to the creation of new businesses and subsidiaries. In 2005, Biovaccines, a local vaccine production subsidiary, was set up, while we commenced the construction of a WHO Standard Pharmaceutical production facility which was completed and commissioned on June 27, 2011,” he said.
M&B has obtained all the national certifications, and is expecting the WHO GMP certifications any time from now, said Okafor. To achieve this goal, the firm has also begun the process of consolidating all of its manufacturing operations by transferring substantial product lines from Ikeja to its new pharmaceutical plant in Ota, Ogun State, with a capacity to produce 4.5 billion tablets and 37.5 million bottles of 60 ml liquid preparations annually.
Another firm, Fidson Healthcare, has also set up a N7 billion biotech plant in Sango Ota, Ogun State, and is set to compete effectively in the intravenous infusion market, stakeholders say.
The firm is now focused on reversing its imports bill which is estimated at 60 percent by 2015, said Biola Adebayo, Fidson Healthcare operations director.
In Nigeria, only Swipha has obtained the pre-qualification for GMP and the firm is now playing in the global pharmaceuticals market which is worth $300 billion a year and is estimated to reach $400 billion within three years, according to WHO.
The ten largest drugs manufacturing companies in the world control over one-third of this market, some with sales of more than $10 billion a year and profit margins of about 30 percent. Six of the big ten are based in the United States and four in Europe.
North and South America, Europe and Japan will likely continue to account for a full 85 percent of the global pharmaceuticals market well into the 21st century, says WHO.
The problems associated with the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry include an under-developed petrochemical industry which forces manufacturers to import raw materials; poor image management and poor product packaging, as well as the influx of drugs from India and other parts of Asia, which are able to compete in the Nigerian market because of poor infrastructure, resulting in high production cost.
“The way other countries perceive Nigerians makes it difficult for them to use drugs manufactured here. Everything boils down to how we have carried ourselves so far, as Nigerians. It boils down to packaging,” Azubuike Okwor, immediate past president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), told BusinessDay.
The pharmaceutical industry combined with the chemical industry has shown some glimpses of improvement, as capacity utilisation in the sector rose from 46.6 percent in the first half of 2013 (H1 2013) to 53.6 percent in the second half of 2013 (H2 2013), according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)’s data.
Local content rose from 53.2 percent in H1 2013 to 61.18 percent in H2 2013.