Revive the pharmaceutical sector for inclusive growth

The broad objective of achieving inclusive growth and building a globally competitive economy is to invest in the people.
This involves, among others, the improvement of the human capital through enhanced accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare.
Nigeria’s health statistics is appalling compared to less endowed countries in the sub-region.
The often quoted World Health Organisation report ranked Nigeria 187 out of the 191 countries surveyed in the year 2000.
The UNDP human development index report of 2017 also ranked Nigeria 152 out of 188 countries.
The first global healthcare ranking by the influential medical journal lancet rated Nigeria 140th out of 195 countries surveyed between 1990 and 2015.
The budgetary allocation to health over the past decades hovers between 3% and 6% and the 2017 budget is less than 5% which is a far cry from the WHO 2001 Abuja declaration benchmark of 15%.
The post-recession management of our economy requires a recalibration of the health system hinged on systematic investments in the sector, implementation of policies and initiatives that will ensure balanced growth, secured welfare, health and happiness of the citizenry.
The Nigerian pharmaceutical market is one of the most rapidly growing emerging markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
There are currently about 150 pharmaceutical manufacturers and the industry has an annual growth rate of about 13% and is estimated to be worth about $1.3bn which accounts for less than 1 per cent of the GDP.
Less than 30% of Nigeria’s medicine requirements are produced locally.
To achieve inclusive growth in the pharmaceutical sector and attain the over 70% local production of medicines as envisaged in the national drug policy, the pharmaceutical sector is expected to have an annual growth rate of about 15% to double its contribution to the GDP in 5 to 6 years.
The limited growth in this sector has been as a result of poor infrastructure, inadequate funding, unfavorable government policies, a poor medicine regulatory framework and insufficient sectoral human resources for health.
Government needs to support local manufacturers with investment in infrastructure, embark on preferential procurement of locally manufactured pharmaceutical products to stimulate more investments from the private sector.
The combination of these factors will raise capacity utilization, employment generation resulting in enhanced productivity and growth of the economy.
The pharmaceutical sector will also benefit from government policies and executive orders on tariffs ease of doing business and foreign exchange allocation.
This will result in massive recapitalization of the pharmaceutical sector and enhanced research and development by progressively adopting cutting edge innovative technologies.
Nigeria currently has over 21,000 registered pharmacists and 18 pharmacy schools.
Despite this apparent large number of pharmacists, the pharmacistpatient ratio in Nigeria is about 1 pharmacist to 13,000 people which is far above the WHO benchmark of 1 pharmacist to 2000 people.
Pharmacist density correlates with gross national income and health expenditure.
Countries with lower economic indicators tend to have fewer pharmacists with the attendant implication for inequalities regarding access to medicines and pharmaceutical care.
However, as a result of brain drain, many of the pharmacists are practicing outside the country, this coupled with the estimated $250m spent as the pharmacy component of medical tourism, the implication on gross national income and inclusive growth is enormous.
Herbal medicines, if properly integrated into our health system with enhanced market access according to experts will contribute about N500bn to our gross national income.
Herbal product has become a major source of employment and wealth creation all over the world.
The pharmaceutical sector can be repositioned for inclusive growth through a concerted systematic multi stake holder approach that entails massive investment, deliberate government policies, workforce motivation and innovation.
Ali B.
Umoru, Abuja

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