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May 20, 2024
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High Cost of Medicines: FG determines to make drugs affordable – NAFDAC

The Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye has assured Nigerians that the current high cost of medicines in the country will become a thing of the past as the Agency in partnership with pharmaceutical industry working hard to bring down the cost of drugs.

Adeyeye said this at the Cable Newspaper webinar lecture to celebrate its tenth anniversary with the theme: Addressing Costs of Medicines.

Prof Adeyeye identified rejuvenation of the local pharmaceutical industry as a panacea for high cost of medicines in the country, saying locally manufactured medicinal products would be more accessible and affordable compared to the imported drugs.

According to her, the devaluation of the Naira accounted largely for high cost of production locally as the high exchange rate made procurement of raw materials and equipment imported for production extremely high,
adding that due to difficulty associated with procurement of dollar, cost of the imported drugs has also hit the roof, and the same time, two multinationals left the industry, causing the cost of drugs they produce to go up.

To grow the local pharmaceutical industry, Prof Adeyeye pointed out that NAFDAC under her leadership has started the 5 plus 5 regulatory scheme, where a company that has been importing drugs that the local pharmaceutical industries are able to produce will get a last five-year renewal.

During the five-year renewal period, the importer must migrate to local manufacturing or partner with local manufacturer. This is an outcome of a study that was done in 2019 that revealed that the top 5 drugs that are imported are also the top 5 drugs that are manufactured in Nigeria.

Furthermore, she disclosed that over 30 per cent of new companies in Nigeria are results of 5 plus 5, as many importers has started building their own companies or partnering with local manufacturers through contract manufacturing, a way to make drugs more available.

Another policy called “NAFDAC Ceiling 34” a policy that ensure drugs under the ceiling cannot be imported, the drugs under ceiling were increased from 9 to 34 drugs when she assumed office so that those 34 drugs that are manufactured locally with good installed capacity would not be allowed into the country, she said.

Our manufacturers import everything except water, she said, adding that the raw materials – Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and the non-active called Excipients are all imported.

With the completion of EMZOR facilities in Shagamu, which we be making four anti-malaria APIs sulfadoxime, Pyrimethamine, Artemether and Lumefantrine and the plans of Fidson Consortium to begin manufacturing of some APIs, the Director General said the initiative will eventually reduce the cost of drugs.

We cannot start manufacturing locally without strengthening the regulatory, we have never regulated local manufacturing of APIs, she said.

She warned the unscrupulous who might want to take advantage of the high cost of drugs in making substandard falsified medicines to cease from doing that, as NAFDAC is on top of the game.

She added, we have put in place traceable technology to monitor the supply chain, NAFDAC is leading in Africa and second in the world with the use of Track and Trace technology, a GS1 Technology which makes the supply chain visible.

All this efforts are all about local content which is also the thrust of President Tinubu administration. Embracing this will lead to increase in the nations GDP, our unemployment will decrease and Nigeria will be better for it.

Also speaking in the same vein, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate assured Nigerians that the various policy measures already put in place by the President Bola Tinubu administration would soon begin to reflect positively in the cost of essential medical commodities.

Prof Ali Pate noted that the escalating costs of pharmaceuticals is part of the global phenomenon, expressing regrets that for past 20 years the nation have been doing catch up, stressing that the present administration is focused on solving the issue.

According to the minister, we are working hard to do so through the Presidential Initiative to Unlock the Pharmaceutical Value Chain that the President announced in October 2023.

The minister noted that affordability of financing of healthcare in Nigeria has been a long-standing issue for more than 40 years, adding that less than 10 per cent of Nigerians have health Insurance or any issuance, which means the cost of our financing healthcare is out of pocket, hence when prices go up the medically related reimbursement for medical care also goes up.

He said this has thrown many Nigerians into poverty because if you have ailments like cancer or kidney failure its easy if we have a viable insurance platform.

Prof. Pate disclosed that President Tinubu has asked the ministry to find solution and collaborate with the private sector in working hand in hand.

He further disclosed that government has continued to engage with pharmaceutical consultative forum, stressing that they are just finalizing an instrument from government to address the fiscal policy constraints for the raw materials and manufacturing equipment.

The minister also added that massive effort is underway to reform the health insurance landscape, believing that if the national health insurance scheme is expand and covers millions of Nigerians, the ability for the system to pay for those costs of medicines, diagnostics and Medicare will not be borne by individuals and households but by a third party.

He said that the absence of a third party is the reason people are feeling the pain of the rising cost of medicines, adding that the National Health Insurance Agency NHIA and NAFDAC have been developing a medical supply chain initiative which is trying to address the issue.

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