/ 22 January 2024

Nigeria strengthens healthcare through local pharmaceutical production

Young African Scientist Looking Through A Microscope In The Laboratory
63% of drugs are imported in Nigeria. The number has dropped from 70% in 2019.

As Nigeria battles against infectious diseases, a glaring reality surfaces — the pressing need for a self-reliant healthcare system. The recent global healthcare crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, laid bare the vulnerabilities in Nigeria’s healthcare sector. 

Nigeria faces constant problems related to the availability and access to medicines, as do other low- and middle-income countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Acknowledging these difficulties, governments in the region have increasingly shown interest in local pharmaceutical production as a way of addressing technology transfer, building capacity and improving access to essential medicines.

The pandemic has not only shown the immediate need for robust healthcare responses but has also unveiled the weaknesses in the system. Nigeria, like many other countries, had difficulty in securing adequate vaccine supplies during the pandemic, exposing its reliance on external sources. This overreliance not only hindered the nation’s vaccination efforts but also highlighted the vulnerability of depending on global supply chains during health crises.

It’s crucial to address the root causes and provide practical solutions. Nigeria heavily depends on other countries for essential resources. While aspiring to have top-notch healthcare facilities, the country predominantly sources basic medical amenities from external channels.

One notable initiative developed to tackle this problem was the implementation of the Five Plus Five-Year Validity policy by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in 2019. This policy supports the local production of essential medicines and sets a clear path for the migration of imported products to local manufacturing. The policy encourages partnerships with Nigerian companies and the establishment of local manufacturing plants for various pharmaceutical products, promoting sustainability and reducing the reliance on imported medicines.

This policy was a crucial measure, given that about 70% of drugs consumed in Nigeria were imported. This percentage has now decreased to 63%, according to Business Day

The broader scope of this policy, compared with previous measures, has yielded positive outcomes, particularly in terms of direct contact between the government, local producers and potential foreign investors.

The successes in local pharmaceutical production, supported by fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, provide a blueprint for the trajectory of local vaccine manufacturing. The government’s role in creating an environment conducive to private sector involvement, combined with international collaborations for technical expertise and financial support, is key to achieving success. 

This remedy extends beyond simply acquiring more vaccines; it demands empowering Nigeria to manufacture its own. Establishing local vaccine manufacturing capabilities is not a luxury but a necessity, forming a cornerstone in the foundation of a resilient healthcare system. A vaccine manufacturing facility is the focal point of Nigeria’s response to health emergencies, equipped with upgraded infrastructure and cutting-edge technology to produce vaccines meeting global standards. This endeavour transcends immediate crisis response; it lays the groundwork for sustained capability to confront future health problems.

The benefits are not confined to health security. A flourishing local vaccine production industry becomes a catalyst for economic growth — a job generator, an innovation hub and a driver of technological advancements. 

But this transformative journey is not without hurdles. Nigeria faces logistical complexities in establishing a vaccine production ecosystem, coupled with challenges related to vaccine confidence. Instances of misinformation and scepticism pose obstacles to the vaccination drive, necessitating a comprehensive public awareness campaign to dispel concerns.

Examining success stories from countries such as Brazil and India, where local vaccine production has thrived, offers valuable insights. Brazil, amid diverse health problems, invested in building vaccine production capabilities, reaping economic dividends and bolstering its ability to respond to emerging diseases. India’s transformation from a net vaccine importer to a global powerhouse serves as an example, illustrating the economic effect achievable through such endeavours. 

For Nigeria to replicate such successes, collaboration is paramount. A harmonious partnership between the government, private sector and international allies is indispensable. The government’s role is pivotal in creating an environment conducive to private sector involvement, with policies that encourage investments in vaccine production. International collaborations bring technical expertise, financial support and access to global markets.

By addressing immediate vaccine supply needs and concurrently building a self-sustaining industry, Nigeria can insulate itself from global disruptions. As the nation stands at the crossroads, the journey towards vaccine independence is not merely a medical milestone but a transformative leap towards a healthier and wealthier future.