A Much Needed Dialogue on Medication Affordability, Accessibility

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Recently, key stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry convened for an interactive meeting titled, “Dinner with the Honourable Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Mohammad Ali Pate CON”,  to discuss the affordability, availability, and accessibility of essential drugs and medication in the country. The main focus of the discussions were to find ways of strengthening the local pharmaceutical industry and reducing the high cost of drugs in Nigeria. MARY NNAH reports

There is hope for a brighter future in Nigeria’s healthcare delivery, as stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry work to address the problem of affordability, availability and accessibility of essential medication in the country. This hope is supported by the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate CON, and the commitment of industry players.

The Pharmaceutical Stakeholders Dinner with Pate in Lagos, organised by the Pharmaceutical Stakeholders in Nigeria, saw the presence of notable individuals in the Pharmaceutical Industry during which the Minister assured attendees that an Executive Order would be developed to reduce identified barriers to local drug manufacturing and support the industry.

Pate pledged his support and collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry and declared the event the first official consultation forum with him. He expressed his interest in continuing such forums every quarter and promised to address the challenges faced by the industry.

“The industry players are now proactive, and healthcare is a key part of the president’s hope agenda. Local pharmaceutical manufacturing is being pursued to enable the industry to thrive and subsequently reduce the cost of medication. The current administration is also actively wooing manufacturers to produce in Nigeria”, Pate noted.

The event was chaired and chief-hosted by Prince Julius Adewale Adelusi-Adeluyi OFR MNI, a prominent figure in Pharmacy, former Health Minister and the current Chairman of the MTN Foundation. Other distinguished guests included the Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye; President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Prof. Cyril O. Usifoh; the PCN Registrar, Ibrahim Babashehu Ahmed; the Vice Chancellor of Chrisland University, Professor Chibedum Peace Babalola; the Director of NIPRID, Dr Philip Builders; and several pharmaceutical CEOs and Directors under the umbrella of FeNPIA, PMG-MAN, APIN, PSN, NIROPHARM, IPMIN and NAIP.

Dr. Kemi Ogunyemi, representing the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, highlighted the major factors contributing to high medication costs and stated that the government is committed to bringing down the cost while organising programmes for the free distribution of drugs.  She stressed that healthy living and prevention are crucial in healthcare.

 Ogunyemi also hinted at the readiness of the Sanwo-Olu administration to collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry and partner with federal agencies to develop the healthcare industry.

The stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry had previously identified various challenges that have hindered the sector from making progress, including challenges in foreign exchange, expediting local production, procurement, policy inconsistency and implementation, pharmaceutical manufacturing development funds, and research and development. They also lamented that the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry was heavily import-dependent.

At the event, Professor Cyril Odianose Usifoh congratulated the Honourable Coordinating Minister on his appointment and expressed appreciation for the restoration of funding to the Pharmacy Council. He focused his address on three critical issues, namely, emphasising the role of pharmacists as Primary Healthcare providers and routine vaccination, the availability of essential drugs in government hospitals hindered by the Drug Revolving Fund, and the enrichment of the Drug Management Agency through Public-Private Partnerships.

Usifoh expressed confidence in the minister and the president’s ability to bring down the cost of drugs, making them accessible to the average person.

CEO of SKG Pharma and President of the Federation of Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry Association (FeNPIA), Dr. Okey Akpa, addressed statutory setbacks faced by FeNPIA and the reduction of the cost of medication and its affordability in the country.

MD of Fidson, Dr Fidelis Ayebae, also expressed confidence in the capacity of the Honourable Minister, stating “Nigeria will get it right with the kind of person of the current Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare.”

Vice Chancellor of Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Professor Chinedum Peace Babalola, spoke on the need for better drug distribution control to prevent drug abuse. She added that Nigeria should strive to be a drug-manufacturing country, rather than relying on imports, to reduce medication costs.

Dean/CEO of Business School Netherlands, Professor Lere Baale, emphasised the importance of collaboration in the Pharmaceutical Industry and its potential to reduce the cost and improve the availability, affordability and accessibility of essential medication.

The event also witnessed a toast in honour of the Honourable Coordinating Minister led by the Chairman of PMG-MAN, Mr. Tosin Jolayemi.

MD of Fensyl MHP, Osareti Jayeola, described the Honourable Minister as a knowledgeable and experienced leader who understands the dynamics of the healthcare profession. His commitment to bringing everyone on board for the greater good of the masses was highly appreciated.

The Executive Secretary of PMG-MAN, Mr Frank Muoremeh, expressed excitement about the engagement between the Honourable Coordinating Minister and the Pharmaceutical Stakeholders, viewing it as a turning point for the industry.

National Chairman of ACPN, Prince Adewale Oladigbolu, described the Honourable Minister as a good listener who values teamwork in the healthcare system. He raised concerns about the operationality of the health insurance scheme and called for reduced tariffs on raw materials and finished goods, as well as a more responsive NAFDAC.

Overall, the event highlighted the proactive and dedicated efforts of Professor Cyril Odianose Usifoh as a silent achiever and an infectious visionary leader backed by one of the leading lights of Pharmacy in Nigeria, Prince Julius Adewale Adelusi-Adeluyi, past presidents of PSN and other industry players in Pharmaceutical value chain.

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