A key way to improve access to medicines in the country is to address the challenges facing local production of medicines, as well as those hampering effective supply chain management, experts in the health sector have said. They said an effective medicine supply chain would stop cases of people being turned away from health facilities or rescheduled hospital appointments because of non availability of medicines particularly vaccines, and immunisation commodities. It would also help get drugs to the rural areas and primary level of care especially with the federal government’s revitalisation of primary health care centres (PHC) and planned ‘one PHC per ward’ in the country.
According to Country lead, Africa Resource Centre (ARC), Azuka Okeke, a pharmacist, said focused consultations with key stakeholders in Nigeria suggest that the public health supply chain system faces several underlying challenges compounded by unrealized private sector synergies.
Africa Resource Centre (ARC) was founded by Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to serve as an independent advisor and strategic partner to provide technical and strategic support to the Federal Ministry of Health, state ministries of health, donors and implementing partners in Nigeria.
Speaking during the local manufacturing and supply chain management forum organized by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) in Abuja, Okeke said common observations on public health supply chain systems in Nigeria include: limited management and human resource capacity, like shortage of adequately trained personnel on supply chain management, and weak execution capacity in the public sector.
Okeke said supply chains as an important building block of the health system, requires specialized talents, expertise and innovations to improve availability of medical commodities as a enabler for optimal healthcare service delivery. According to her previously, Nigeria’s private sector plays almost no strategic role in supporting public health supply chain system performance, despite enormous expertise, capabilities, and tools at its disposal
“Hence, our theory of change at the ARC focuses on mobilizing the private sector and to complement other actors supporting public health supply chain to accelerate improvement in key supply chain outcomes,” she said.
Also speaking during the forum, Chairman Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) Mr Okey Akpa said the major challenge hampering the local production of medicines in the country is the inconsistencies in policies for the industry, He said unfavourable policies like the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) whereby imported medicines attract zero duty while raw and packaging materials for local manufacturing attract up to 20% duty, He said: “Some of the following can be considered in developing a pharma manufacturing sector that is prepared for the future: robust and comprehensive industry engagement, affordable and long term financing, reduction/removal of national and regional restrictions, procurement preferences – government and development agencies, tax and finance related incentives, innovative technology transfer models and contextual value chain improvements like supply chain.”
Executive Secretary of PMG-MANN, Dr Obi Peter Adigwe said that the organisation was willing to develop partnerships aimed at improving sustainable access to healthcare. He said that PMG-MAN, the umbrella body of over one hundred and twenty local medicines’ manufacturers plays a key role in how Nigerians access medicines, and contributes to the national economy.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), Dr. Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq said the forum deepened the debate regarding the effective strategies to ensure sustainable access to affordable, high-quality medicines for the Nigerian population.
Dr. Umar-Sadiq said: “PHN systematically supports government’s health agenda through four primary pillars –through partnerships, innovation, advocacy and impact investments”
The Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), is led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and other business leaders namely, Mr. Jim Ovia, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Mrs. Sola David-Borha and other corporate business leaders in Nigeria.