Nigerians have been urged to expect an increment in the prices of drugs following the removal of subsidy, which led to a hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol from N184 to over N500 per litre, depending on the location of purchase
the pharmacists lamented that the current hike in pump price will affect the manufacturing and distribution of drugs.
President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of subsidy on petrol during his inauguration on May, 29, at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
According to him, the days of fuel subsidy have gone and made reference to the need for a “thorough house cleaning” in the monetary policy.
The 2023 budget has provision for the fuel subsidy till June, however, the President said funds for subsidies will be diverted to other things like education, public infrastructure, health care and jobs.
He said, “We commend the decision of the outgoing administration in phasing out the petrol subsidy regime which has increasingly favoured the rich more than the poor. Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources.
“We shall, instead, re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.”
Reacting to the development, some pharmacists, while speaking exclusively with PUNCH Healthwise warned that the price of medication will go up unexpectedly and astronomically.
According to them, the cost of drug manufacturing will increase and Nigerians, who are the end users (consumers) will bear the brunt.
A former National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Adekola, said already, the pharmaceutical sector is facing several challenges.
He explained that the pump price increment, alongside unstable foreign exchange, would frustrate drug manufacturers in the country.
Adekola noted that some pharmacies may have to shut down as accessibility to drugs will be hampered.
He said, “The pharmaceutical sector is not an exception in any way. The sector will suffer a major blow because pharmaceutical companies are meant to be a social service in health care delivery.
“For sure, the price of medication is going to go up unexpectedly. And what that means is that accessibility will be impaired in a way.
“Unfortunately, this has happened as we enter a year where issues in the pharmaceutical sector have become very serious. Prices of medications have become quite high, if not doubled. So, it is certain that prices of medications would skyrocket because manufacturers would have to spend more.
“Community pharmacies will spend more on power. For example, somebody who spends an average of N2, 000, daily to fuel a generator for his small-scale pharmacy, might have to spend about N5,000 on fuel now that the price is high. So, where does he get the N5,000 to spend if not from the services rendered and profits from sales of medications?
“It is either people remain in operation or shut down. And once they shut down, it also means that those in the community won’t be able to access their services, and that will be a disadvantage.”
While noting that 70 per cent of drugs in the country are imported, Adekola lamented that many companies have been unable to access foreign exchange to purchase them.
“The pharmaceutical sector depends solely on importation. So, to that extent, you will expect a significant level of increment in the prices of medication.
“Even as we speak now, there are so many pharmaceutical companies that have been unable to bring their products into the country. In the last six months, there is a major pharma company the drugs have become so costly in the market because of the inability to bring in products. Perhaps, they have challenges in accessing forex to bring in these products.
“We must be ready to face the fact that everybody will buy things very high. But we cannot condemn the policy outright without giving a benefit of doubt to the new government.”
On his part, the Vice Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Ogun State Branch, Olumide Obube, also affirmed that drugs, like other commodities will be affected.
He said the removal of subsidy will help to develop other sectors of the economy.
Dr. Obube, however, said the price of drugs, which he described as commodities will increases based on the manufacturer’s expenses.
The pharmacist noted that drugs are still presently being sold at normal price, but said there might be price change in the coming weeks.
“We all know that in Nigeria, if there is a slight rise in the price of crude oil, it would lead to a rise in every other commodity. So, the removal of subsidy is a very good idea.
I personally support it because a lot of people have been benefiting from it, except the commoners. The money they are giving to some people as subsidy can be used for so many things like to build good hospitals and providing stable electricity, among other things.
“For the pharmaceutical sector, drugs are commodities and it will affect their sales just like it would affect other commodities. It will affect drugs because it will cost extra to buy them. Manufacturers will spend lots of money and everything would have become costly.
“The hike in price will affect the healthcare system, not only drugs.
If all other things are not put in place like 24 hours electricity supply, those pharmaceutical companies will leverage on it. Even if the fuel is high, we have an alternative that there is a stable power supply.”
Continuing, he said, “The hike in fuel price has not affected drugs for now because we are still selling at the same price based on how we bought them. There is no automatic change because these are the previous batches and we are still with them. We got it at a particular price and that is the same price we will get it.
“The fuel hike, for now, has no significant impact on the drugs. It will, however, affect thereafter, because the cost of production would have increased.”