NIGERIA – Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), have said Africa loses at least US$16 billion (N8.8 trillion) yearly to 94 per cent importation of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs.

They also called for stronger legislation and empowerment to sanitize the drug distribution system in Nigeria.

Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the 94th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the PSN in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, tagged Garden City 2021, Odein Ajumogobia, tied the figure to a recent United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimate.

He said: “This is a terrible indictment and highlights the need for research and policies that will promote increased growth, equitable distribution and retention, especially in the underserved North East and North West states.”

The theme for the PSN conference is “COVID-19 Lessons: Broadening & Strengthening The Nigerian Pharmaceutical/Health Sector.”

Ajumogobia observed that at the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September this year, African leaders appealed for equitable distribution of vaccines, as the COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted global supply chains.

The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs said Nigeria was vulnerable with respect to pharmaceuticals, “since there is limited local production and more than 70 per cent of the drug supply is imported, creating a huge supply-demand disparity particularly in times when a virus-like COVID-19 is a threat.”

He said the pandemic had once again highlighted the need for a more effective structure of drug manufacturing, importation, distribution, administration and control in view of the current reliance on foreign sources for not only finished drug products but also pharmaceutical raw materials, reagents and manufacturing equipment for safe, efficacious and good quality drugs to meet the health needs of Nigerians.

PSN President, Mazi Ohuabunwa, in his opening remarks, said, “The intendment of the government to have a sanitised and ordered pharmaceutical distribution system can never be achieved without adequate legislation.”

Therefore, the subsisting need to support the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) with stronger legislation and empowerment must receive greater attention than it is getting now.

He said the healthcare team must be treated as a team without undue bias for any part or group.

The PSN boss stressed that Nigerian health authorities must recognize pharmacies as a bonafide component of the primary health care architecture and involve them in testing, vaccinations and other public health offerings as obtained in other countries.

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