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WHO certification puts Nigerian pharmaceutical industry in global watch

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IMAGE: Onyebuchi Chukwu, Health Minister »


The Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification given to three local drug firms by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has put the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry in the global eye.

The WHO had, after audits and inspections by its pre-qualification team on October 15, certified Evans Pharmaceutical Limited, May & Baker Pharmaceutical Limited and Chi Pharmaceutical Limited to produce international drugs locally. The three drug makers now join Swiss Pharma Nigeria Limited, which had earlier obtained the certification, thus putting the number of local pharma firms with the WHO GMP to four.

The WHO GMP certification enables drug firms to produce international drugs and compete in the global pharmaceutical space. It also allows them participate in international drug supply bidding exercises sponsored by global development institutions.

One key challenge the certification brings is that it puts the Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry in world’s watch. Analysts say the world will henceforth have high expectations from the Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry, particularly drugs moving out of the country.

According to them, Nigerian pharma firms, especially the newly certified ones, must now concentrate on producing and developing other high-quality specialised drugs for exports. They say any drug short of international standards, traced to Nigeria, could bring untold difficulties for the other seven firms that are still expanding to meet the WHO GMP standards.

“Attaining the WHO pre-qualification often involves rigorous processes and huge expenditure on plant, machinery and products,” said a highly-respected Nigerian pharmacist, who would not want her name in print, because she had an affiliation with one of the certified drug firms and was not authorised to speak.

“Right now, expectations are high from Nigeria and we must let the world know, through our products, that we can put our drugs on the shelves of Europe, America, Asia, and other parts of the world. So, it cannot be a one-off,” she said.

Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria’s health minister, slightly admitted this challenge while announcing the cheery news in Abuja, recently.

“The world now awaits products such as Artemether-Lumefantrine tablets for malaria, Lamivudine tablets for HIV/AIDS, Levoflaxine tablets for tuberculosis, Zinc Sulphate tablets for treatment of diarrhea, Fluconazole injections, Ciprofloxacine tablets and many more made-in-Nigeria drugs to be pre qualified by the WHO soonest,” he said.

“The companies in question will begin to compete favourably with pharmaceutical companies world over in international bidding processes for medicines supplies in relevant global health programmes,” he said.

Chukwu said the Federal Government would consider certain incentives such as tax holidays and increased level of patronage in order to enable the newly certified local drug firms to recoup the expenditure (of about $600,000) tailored to this cause.

Nigerian pharmaceutical firms have been expanding operations, introducing innovations in product packaging and improving plants with a view to obtaining the WHO prequalification that will enable them compete in the global market.

May&Baker began expansion and diversification programmes in 2005, which gave rise to the creation of new businesses and subsidiaries. In 2005, the drug maker set up a local vaccine production subsidiary. 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 60ml liquid preparations annually, according to Nnamdi Okafor, managing director of the firm.

The three certified firms, including Juhel Nigeria Limited, have long been investing in new plants. Over $44 million has been invested by members of pharmaceutical group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PG-MAN) into factory expansion and upgrade of manufacturing processes, according to Bunmi Olaopa, president, PG-MAN.

Rubber processors change strategy as margins dip

Rubber processors and exporters have resorted to inter-cropping on account of slump in profit and revenue. The dip in margins emanates from poor investments and long neglect in the industry as well as long gestation period of trees, which hovers between six and seven years.

Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in proximity. The most common objective of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources that would otherwise not be utilised by a single crop, according to Wikipedia.

“Rubber has long gestation period of between six and seven years,” said Sunday Kolawole, president, National Rubber Association of Nigeria, in an exclusive interview.

“What players now do is inter-cropping. Some plant rubber trees along side banana, cassava and other crops. There are even players that plant rubber trees and practise animal husbandry on the same area,” Kolawole said.

Industry margins of the rubber industry players have continued to dip as capacity, which stood well above 130,000 metric tons per annum (tpa) few years ago, now hovers between 65,000tpa and 60,000tpa on account of the failure to replenish old plantations and establish new ones. Secondly, the margins are affected by drop in rubber prices to between $1,970 and $1,700 per ton, from more than $4,000 per ton few years ago.

Stakeholders say the strategy has become necessary as total dependence on rubber would have untold effect on families.

“However, rubber plantations are what can sustain anybody after retirement. This is the way it is done in Ivory Coast,” said Ede Dafinone, CEO, Sapele Integrated Industries Limited.

Article Credit: Businessdayonline

Updated 3 Years ago

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Tags:     Good Manufacturing Practice     WHO     May & Baker Pharmaceutical Limited     Onyebuchi Chukwu     WHO