Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, directed the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to fashion out how medicines and livestock drugs can be made available to the Nigerian public at a fraction of the prevailing prices.
He gave the directives when he had audience with the executive board members of a pharmaceutical company, Graham Foggs Ltd, at State House, Abuja.
The company, led by Chief Sam Nda-Isaiah, a pharmacist and newspaper publisher, seeks to make essential medicines and livestock drugs available to the public, at significantly reduced prices.
Graham Foggs Ltd plans to bring down the prices of most of the commonly used medicines by up to 60 percent, producing only generic medicines as against patented ones.
According to a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari reiterated his commitment to the improvement of the quality of lives of Nigerians, and then charged the ministers of Health as well as Agriculture and Rural Development to work with the pharmaceutical company, “short-circuit disruptive bureaucracy, and brief me from time to time.”
Nda-Isaiah told the president that, “it has been established that 70 percent of Nigerians cannot afford modern medicines produced by multinational pharmaceutical companies due to their high prices,” adding that most of the companies operate at less than 30 percent of installed capacity, “and it has been so for a very long time. The only break was during the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) days, when drug manufacturers were achieving 80 percent of installed capacity.”
“This would be achieved without a single kobo subsidy from government, with Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) or bulk raw materials imported from China and India for the approved local production companies in Nigeria,” he said.
Nda-Isaiah noted that the finished products would be sold at fixed prices, to achieve the objectives of the programme, adding: “Millions of jobs would be created across the country as pharmaceutical plants would be operating at near-maximum capacity, and this would be for medicines of all classes including livestock drugs to boost the agricultural sector. The price of every medicine, including those under the health insurance scheme, will come down.”
President Buhari had shortly after he assumed office, reduced tariff on pharmaceutical raw materials, and increased the one for finished imported products. This was to boost and encourage local production of medicines, for the benefit of ordinary Nigerians.