Over the past six years, Nigeria has incurred expenditures exceeding N3.06 trillion on the importation of pharmaceutical products, as disclosed by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), a Federal Government agency dedicated to the growth, promotion, and utilization of industrial raw materials.
The RMRDC report reveals that in 2016, Nigeria spent N126.1 billion on pharmaceutical imports, with a slight reduction to N118.9 billion in 2017. The figure increased to N185.5 billion in 2018, followed by a significant upswing in the subsequent years. Pharmaceutical imports reached N520 billion in 2019, surged to N1 trillion in 2020, potentially influenced by the COVID-19 crisis. Subsequently, in 2021 and 2022, Nigeria spent N544.4 billion and N445.7 billion, respectively, on pharmaceutical imports.
The imported pharmaceutical products during this period included Heparin and its salts, vaccines, toxins, wadding, gauze, and medicines of mixed and unmixed products for retail sale.
In contrast, Nigeria’s export during this period amounted to only N3 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of N3.03 trillion. The RMRDC report identifies a significant challenge in the high propensity of Nigerian industries and businesses to consume/utilize foreign raw materials and products, contributing to the importation of foreign goods.
Members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have expressed concern that over-reliance on imported pharmaceuticals may lead to a public health crisis. Abasiama Uwatt, the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State branch of PSN, highlighted the scarcity of forex as a critical factor, warning that it could result in a public health crisis if not urgently addressed. She noted that drug prices have doubled within the last year due to the forex crisis, exacerbating inflation.
Uwatt emphasized the national security implications of disruptions in the medicine supply chain, emphasizing that dependence on imported medicines has had a detrimental impact on the local industry and the national economy. She warned of an impending public health crisis, stressing the lack of guaranteed medicine security for millions of Nigerians.
Mfonobong Okon, the chairman of the communique drafting committee for PSN 2023 week, attributed the continued reliance on imported drugs to policy somersaults on the part of the government. He emphasized the need for consistent and effective implementation of policies, stating that importation is easier than production but cannot generate employment or self-sufficiency. Okon urged a focus on the bigger picture of medicine security for the country.