Interview: Mark Wagstaff
How will recent changes in the global pharmaceutical market affect the industry in Nigeria?
MARK WAGSTAFF: At a global level, we are witnessing more pharmaceutical companies becoming certified by the World Health Organisation, and thus authorised to export pharmaceutical products. This will impact Nigeria’s market, as the number of pharmaceutical firms in the economy will grow. In Nigeria, the commercial side of the industry is obviously small compared to Europe and the US, but there is a commitment to providing high-quality medicines to all patients.
Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to be the fastest growing region for pharmaceuticals over the next five to 10 years, and Nigeria is particularly attractive due to the size of its market and its fast-growing population. The industry is still expanding and there is ample scope for further commercial development. In the last few years, growth has been steady, but we expect the market to expand at a greater rate in the near future.
What infrastructural challenges do drug manufacturers face in terms of domestic distribution?
WAGSTAFF: The biggest challenge related to distribution is an absence of adequate facilities for the management of cold-chain products, including standard warehouses for storing them in. We also lack an effective regulatory framework and the policies required to enforce the right standards.
To eradicate counterfeit drugs, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control ( NAFDAC) carries out post-marketing surveillance (PMS) on goods in the market to ensure they are safe for use and has dispatched teams of officials to man all the entry points, specifically airports and seaports. Another measure put in place by the agency is the use of handheld TruScan technology during PMS activities and the implementation of a mobile-authentication service on some classified pharmaceutical products by the relevant marketing authorisation holders. NAFDAC also ensures that all imported registered products are analysed upon arrival in the country by taking samples from each shipment at the port of entry.
The pharmaceutical sector as a whole must continue to coordinate with the government and other stakeholders through capacity building to quickly identify counterfeit drugs and take appropriate action.
How would you evaluate the success of Nigeria’s intellectual property (IP) framework?
WAGSTAFF: IP is associated with the development of innovation, the guarantee of quality and traceability. IP protection is essential in sustaining the biopharmaceutical sector’s investments in research and development.
Nigeria, through the NAFDAC Enforcement Directorate, has achieved significant successes in the past year, protecting patients by wiping counterfeit drugs from the market. The threat remains, however, and such efforts should be reinforced to ensure that all patients have access to good quality medicines.
There is also still an urgent need to improve infrastructure for the efficient management of IP rights, to strengthen law enforcement through the coordination of relevant government agencies and to develop public awareness campaigns related to the important role IP can play in local innovation.
What can companies in the sector do to make medicines more widely available to the public?
WAGSTAFF: Pharmaceutical companies are committed to bringing affordable medicines to people who need them. The sector as a whole is working on finding an innovative and commercially sustainable model to improve overall access to medicines by partnering with public and private institutions like the National Insurance Health Scheme and health maintenance organisations. Improving and broadening insurance coverage will also make pharmaceuticals available to a larger population, thereby reducing costs for patients.
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