Mixed Reactions Trail Executive Order On Pharmaceutical Products

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A pharmacist administering drugs.

The recent Executive Order signed by President Bola Tinubu, aimed at boosting local production of healthcare products, has sparked a range of responses from industry stakeholders.

While many applaud the initiative for its potential to reduce production costs and enhance the competitiveness of local manufacturers, others voice concerns about its implementation and long-term impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

The order, which eliminates tariffs, excise duties, and VAT on specified machinery, equipment and raw materials, is seen as a pivotal move towards fostering medical industrialisation in Nigeria.

Speaking to Science Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja, head of quality assurance at Innovative Biotech LTD, Dr. Ezekiel Gube Ibrahim commented on the Executive Order, stating, “It’s a good development if the regulatory agencies perform their duties diligently. Many Nigerians will want to take advantage of this tariff-free opportunity, and there’s a risk that some might import substandard pharmaceutical drugs and raw materials, especially from countries like China and Pakistan, which are known for producing substandard products. It’s crucial that our regulatory agencies step up and prevent fake products from flooding the market by ensuring strict enforcement of standards.”

Ibrahim continued, “For us at Innovative Biotech, this is an excellent opportunity to redefine the health system in Nigeria by producing and delivering quality pharmaceutical products through practices that meet World Health Organisation standards. We are well known for our commitment to quality, and this initiative opens the market for us to start production here in Nigeria. Let’s work as a team to capture the Nigerian market and beyond.”

Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi expressed optimism about the potential benefits for the pharmaceutical manufacturing industries in the country. Magashi stated, “This is a great opportunity for the country’s local pharmaceuticals and manufacturers. It will be good for Nigerians to monitor implementation over the next year before saying it has no prospect.”

However, Dr. Gabriel Adakole, a public health expert, raised concerns about the status of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited (BVNL), a joint venture between the Federal Government of Nigeria and May & Baker Nigeria Plc, which was set to commence vaccine production before the second quarter of 2023. Adakole remarked, “The FEC approved the first part of the MoU of Biovaccines on September 14, 2022, with the Federal Ministry of Health for the supply of routine immunisation vaccines. However, Nigeria is still facing a serious shortage of vaccines, as seen in the ongoing cholera outbreak in the country. Nigerians need to know what has happened so far with this arrangement because it’s also pharmaceutical products. We must stop wandering aimlessly in a state of backwardness and focus on making tangible progress. It’s time to embrace innovative solutions and drive forward with a clear vision for the future.”

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, praised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Executive Order which aims to revitalise Nigeria’s health sector by boosting local production of healthcare products. Pate said, “This transformative order removes tariffs, excise duties and VAT on essential machinery, equipment and raw materials, significantly reducing production costs and enhancing local manufacturers’ competitiveness. It also establishes market-shaping mechanisms to support local manufacturers and mandates collaboration between key ministries to streamline regulatory processes and reduce bottlenecks. Agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service, NAFDAC and others will ensure swift implementation, with special waivers effective for two years. The order represents a strategic shift towards market-based incentives, fostering medical industrialization, reducing costs through import substitution, retaining economic value, and creating jobs in the healthcare value chain.”

The minister thanked the President for his commitment to Nigeria’s prosperity and acknowledged the contributions of all involved in this significant initiative.

This diverse range of responses underscores the complexities of implementing such a transformative policy. While the Executive Order has the potential to significantly bolster local pharmaceutical production, the success of this initiative will largely depend on the effective enforcement of standards and the diligent oversight by regulatory agencies to prevent the influx of substandard products into the market.

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