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Why prices of drugs are hitting the roof -Health minister

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, on Tuesday said the devaluation of the foreign exchange is affecting manufacturers’ ability to buy raw materials and equipment, which led to the rising cost of drugs in the country.

Prof Pate also said power supply, technical know-how, technology, the supply chain, and the regulatory landscape are affecting the prices of drugs.

Pate spoke at a webinar themed, ‘Addressing the escalating costs of medicines,’ organised by TheCable to mark its 10th anniversary.

The minister, however, said the Federal Government is working on removing all the constraints on importing raw materials for the local manufacturing of drugs.

“There are two issues underlining what we are observing now. There is the forex devaluation on the supply side, affecting the ability to buy raw materials and equipment,” he noted.

According to him, the financing of healthcare in Nigeria and affordability has been a longstanding issue for more than 40 years, and less than 10 per cent of Nigerians are covered under health insurance.

“This means many fund healthcare out of pocket. Many of us will be thrown into poverty if met with catastrophic health challenges like cancer and kidney failure because we don’t have a viable insurance platform,” he said.

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He added that President Bola Tinubu has directed that the ministry work in collaboration with the private sector to find a solution.

“We have had engagements with the pharmaceutical consultative forum and we are finalising an instrument from the government that will affect the fiscal policy constraints on the import of raw materials and manufacturing equipment.

“We are inviting several actors with the technology to partner with our local manufacturers so we have an industrial base as well. We have a viable market and we need to make a head start in that direction. On the demand side, a massive effort is underway on reforming the health insurance landscape.

“We believe if we can expand the insurance landscape and have millions covered, the cost of diagnostics and care will not be borne by individuals and households but by a third party. The absence of a third party is why Nigerians are feeling the pinch from the rise in costs,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Frank Muonemeh stated that local manufacturers are doing all within their control to stem the rising prices of medicines.

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“This is an opportunity for us to reverse the importation of pharmaceutical products,” Muonemeh said.

The Executive Secretary of the Anambra Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Chisom Uchem stated that when people look for drugs and cannot get them, there will automatically be therapeutic failure.

“It’s time for the government to encourage experts to research the use of our local herbal remedies for production,” she added.

Gracie Brown
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