. says GSK, others interested in returning to the country
The Federal Government has blamed the exit of pharmaceutical firms from Nigeria on what it termed ‘lax pharmaceutical laws.’
Tunji Alausa, minister of state for health and social welfare, who stated this at a World Cancer Day Symposium, on Monday in Abuja, noted that the pharmaceutical laws governing the manufacture and sales of pharmaceuticals in the country were treated with levity and not strictly implemented.
The minister specifically pointed to the 5+ 5 policy of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Regulation and Control (NAFDAC) which stipulates that after pharmaceutical firms have marketed drugs for five years, they should domesticate their production. He expressed disappointment that companies exiting did not adhere to this policy, as they continued to market for five years without local production.
The 5+5 policy, according to NAFDAC, requires the importer/manufacturer to present to NAFDAC a plan to migrate to local manufacturing or partner with an existing local manufacturer through contract manufacturing. The essence of the policy is to provide it a strong foothold for enhancing local manufacturing and regulatory oversight aimed at improving access to medicines that meet the requirements for quality, safety, and efficacy.
In August 2023, GSK, a UK-based pharmaceutical company with a 51-year presence in Nigeria, announced its decision to discontinue the direct commercialisation of prescription medicines and vaccines in the country, citing operational challenges.
Following suit, French pharmaceutical player Sanofi-Aventis Nigeria Limited announced its departure from Nigeria in November 2023, effective February 2024.
But Alausa, while fielding questions from newsmen at the cancer symposium, said, “They did not leave because of difficulty in doing business. These pharmaceutical companies left because we have lax pharmaceutical laws.
Consequently, he announced that the government has begun reviewing its pharmaceutical laws. “Now, we are reviewing our pharmaceutical law, to ensure that we are not into this bad situation again”, the minister said.
He noted that the exit of the firms would only open doors for other investors, adding that Nigeria has an abundance of opportunities to manufacture, including its 220 million population size.
Alausa also hinted that GSK, SANOFI and Pfizer were also showing interest in returning to Nigeria as President Bola Tinubu was working on improving the ease of doing business environment.
This, according to him, was the outcome of the meeting between Muhammad Pate, minister of health and social welfare and nine pharmaceutical firms recently in Brussels.
“As companies are leaving the country is ripe for investment; other companies will come. Just last week, Pate was in Brussels meeting with nine international pharmaceutical companies; GSK, PFIZER, SANOFI, and the rest. There is a new interest in coming back to the country,” he said.