•Syringe manufacturers eye offshore markets

From Fred Ezeh and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja 

In an effort to reduce the cost of needles and syringes in the nation, the federal government has met with various pharmaceutical companies in Abuja.

The meeting was presided over by the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Tunji Alausa and the of Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite.

The engagement had in attendance, major health equipment manufacturers, including Afrimedical Manufacturing and Supplies Limited and HMA Medical Limited, among others, Briefing journalists after a closed-door session, Dr. Alausa said they had a fruitful discussion with the needle and syringe manufacturers, adding that there were five companies still operating today in the country. 

The Minister explained that the meeting was based on the directive of President Bola Tinubu to reduce the cost of pharmaceutical products as well as medical supplies in the country. 

He said: “That was why this meeting was quickly held, and we explored and discussed many practical solutions where we can begin to have some quick wins, some immediate solutions that will be incorporated in the executive order that the President has asked us to work on, and then as well as the medium  and long term solutions on how we can get the problem completely and permanently resolved. 

“Everybody was happy at the end of the meeting. We believe we have addressed all the issues that will put this industry on the part of sustainability, where they can begin to create employment for our citizens and where we would have needles and syringes that are of high quality that will not be harmful to our citizens as they visit hospitals or healthcare facilities to seek care. 

In her remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, reiterated that the aim of the meeting was to find ways of eliminating all bottlenecks that are impacting or impeding industrialization, manufacturing, of the health sector in Nigeria. 

She said: “I will re-echo the determination of Mr. President to remove all bottlenecks that are impacting and impeding manufacturing in Nigeria and we have been able to address that in the course of our deliberations today. 

On his part, Dr. Lanre Shittu, the Chairman of Medical Device Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, expressed the joy of the Manufacturers over the success of the meeting, stating that it marked a significant step towards the change that would halt the continuous shutdown and exiting of pharmaceutical companies from the country. 

He applauded the federal government for looking into the challenges facing the industry, stating that the country, in the next few years, will become an exporter of needles and syringes if the efforts were sustained

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Dr. Shittu added: “this is a historical because we have been trying to address the issues that affecting the syringe and needle sector in the last six to seven years. 

“You will recall that a few weeks ago, one of the companies shut down. But following the intervention of Mr. President and the help of the Ministers of Industry, Trade, Investment;  Health, and other members, we have had an honest and heart-to-heart discussion. And they have made practical commitments to resolving all our challenges as identified. 

“I see that in the next three to five years, we will be net exporters of lot of medical devices and products.”

Chairman, Afrimedical, Mr. Mofid Karameh, lauded the Executive Order, saying that it would boost investment in the health sector and revolutionize it. 

According to him, “This is the beginning of moving the industry forward. The effort will have a ripple effect on the economy.After a long time waiting and many factories have closed down, today, we got an executive order from Mr. President to protect this industry and reduce the prices of medical products for all Nigerians.

“Today is a memorable day for all of us, for them to take this decision to reduce or ban the importation of needles and syringes completely. This is a big achievement for Nigeria and Africa and to promote the industry in Nigeria here. Nigeria is the hope of supply for other West African regions and with this we hope the boom will return and the industry will resume supplying again to other countries.”

Karameh said all the manufacturing companies in Nigeria could satisfy domestic needs and even cover the rest of Africa as well as ensure the abundance of quality products.

He said, “Before now, our biggest problem was the smuggling of sub-standard products into the country. All the products that are coming into Nigeria are sub-standard.

“Today, we are producing to international standards, which are inspected by NAFDAC and the Ministry of Health.Today is a big achievement whereby we can protect the health of Nigerian citizens by giving them products of international standards.”

The Managing Director, Afrimedical, Mr. Akin Oyeniran, applauded the federal government’s commitment to resolving issues in the medical manufacturing industry, adding that the government had shown the motivation that it wants to restore the industry.

“We have been able to put our problems forward to them and they have come up with a quick solution and they will be working on it.” Oyeniran stated.