Nigerian pharmacists search for ‘disruptive innovations’ to industry’s challenges

As nation imports 70% of drugs used locally


As Nigerian industrial pharmacists gather from May 1 for their annual meeting, top on their agenda would be the quest for ‘disruptive solutions’ that would help the local industry leapfrog current limitations. They would be raising questions and expecting practical suggestions that would usher the nation into a new level of healthcare delivery with a strong home base.

With only 30 percent of the drugs used in the industry currently manufactured locally, the pharmaceutical industry is in dire need to close supply gap that exposes the nation’s healthcare system to the vagaries of external dependency.

Their group, the National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP), will holding its  conference in Anambra State to further drive the conversation on innovation in the industry by way of manufacturing, using local resources available in the country.

With the theme, “Disruptive Innovations: Unleashing the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry”, the conference will hold at Golden Tulip Hotel, Agulu, from May 1 to May 4, 2019. It hopes to propel stakeholders to “look inwards” for local manufacturing, says Ignatius Anukwu, NAIP’s National Chairman.

“The theme of the conference is a bit of a fallout of the theme of the National conference of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), of which we are a technical arm, and that is “Disruptive Innovation: A case study of Nigeria,” Anukwu said at a media briefing recently in Lagos.

“So we are taking this theme and making it a continuity from our previous conference. Last year, we looked at imperatives –drug security in Nigeria. So in the event that we can’t import, what happens to our 180 million population,” he further said, regarding the low rate of drug production in Nigeria.

The keynote address will be delivered by the Chief of Party, PQM (Promoting the Quality of Medicine), United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Dr. Chimezie Anyakorah, according to the organisers of the conference. The address is expected to explore and recommend bold initiatives that would bring about the desired boom of the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry.

Anukwu told journalists that buying the raw and packaging materials from abroad before producing increases cost and makes the local industry less competitive.

“Now, what we are looking at is that, while we improve on the capacity of what we produce in Nigeria, let us innovate, because it is by innovation that we can earn more and add more value,” he said.

“What we are advocating with this conference is disruptive innovation –how can we begin to look at the things we have here, and get something that will be worthwhile for the international community and put Nigeria on the international map. To say ‘that medicine came from Nigeria’, that we can import it to Europe, and Asia, and get foreign exchange,” he said.

He revealed that the major essence of the conference is to make Nigeria Africa’s pharmaceutical hub, but noted that this would require government’s support to.

“What we are asking government to do is to set up pharmaceutical manufacturing parks, pharmaceutical industrial parks,” he said.

He explained that the “pharmaceutical industrial park” means having many manufacturers coming together in an area or estate, where they can share certain facilities that ordinarily they would have to provide by themselves individually.

“And when that is done, the cost will be shared, reduced and the industry would be better for it,” he said.

Speaking to BusinessDay about the conference, Olusola Adeniola, a pharmacist,  said: “We have a lot of potentials in Nigeria when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, and a lot remains untapped. Based on the theme of the conference, we’re trying to see how we can unleash that potential that is stuck inside our pharmaceutical industry, because by the time we tap into it, we can match other industries.”

“We are looking at other ways to solve our problems, and how we can produce our own from our own natural ingredients and export to other countries.”

The conference will also hold a heath walk against cancer and drug abuse, and a health mission to a community in Anambra State that has no hospitals or pharmacies.

Top government functionaries, policy makers, captains of the pharmaceutical industry, agencies of government involved in Research and Development of Indigenous medicines like the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Nigerian Natural Medicines Development Agency (NNMDA), and the Group of Indigenous Medicines Producers in Anambra State, will attend.