According to a report by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), a Federal Government organization responsible for the growth, promotion, and utilization of industrial raw materials, at least N3.06tn has been spent on pharmaceutical imports into Nigeria in the last six years.
Members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria have warned that if nothing is done to reduce the country’s dependency on imported drugs, the country could face a public health crisis.
According to the RMRDC data, Nigeria spent N126.1 billion in 2016 on pharmaceutical imports. In 2017, the amount was N118.9 billion, but in 2018, it increased to N185.5 billion. The figures would skyrocket over the next four years, with imports reaching N520 billion in 2019. Nigeria spent N1 trillion on pharmaceutical imports in 2020, reportedly owing to the COVID-19 crisis.
In 2021 and 2022, N544.4 billion and N445.7 billion were spent on pharmaceutical imports into Nigeria, respectively. During this time, major pharmaceutical products imported included Heparin and its salts, vaccines, toxins, wadding, gauze medicines, and mixed and unmixed products for retail sale.
In contrast, Nigeria was only able to export products worth N3 billion throughout the study period, leaving the trade deficit at N3.03 trillion. One of the primary issues encouraging foreign product importation is a high inclination among Nigerian industries and businesses to consume/use foreign raw materials and products.
Abasiama Uwatt, Chairman of the PSN Akwa Ibom State section, stated that if decisive action is not made to solve the matter, the continuing scarcity of FX may lead to a public health disaster. According to her, medicine prices have already risen in the last year as a result of the currency crisis, and the economy has been afflicted by rampant inflation.
She went on to say that disruptions in the drug supply chain had become a national security issue, and that reliance on imported medicines had wreaked havoc on local business and the national economy.
Uwatt also issued a warning, claiming that a public health crisis is approaching because millions of Nigerians lack access to medicine. “The threat to medicine security is at an all-time high,” she warned.