Juhel: Source of hope for struggling pharma industry

Anambra State-based Juhel Nigeria is a source of hope for the struggling pharmaceutical industry.

The company is consistently investing in new infrastructure to provide quality drugs for Nigerian consumers and get the World Health Organisation (WHO) prequalification necessary for international competition.

The drug maker recently introduced Oxytocin injection for pregnant women, the first of its kind in Africa.

Juhel’s injection, unveiled in Lagos, was manufactured in collaboration with the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). It has the capacity to reduce after-birth bleeding and maternal deaths, estimated at 58, 000 each year. The drug was hitherto imported outside Africa but is now locally manufactured in Awka, Anambra State, Ifeanyi Okoye, CEO of Juhel Nigeria Limited, said.

“We have the capacity to produce enough Oxytocin that will serve the rest of sub-Saharan Africa,” Okoye said.

“USP for two years collaborated with Juhel Nigeria Limited towards the production of maternal commodities –Magnesium sulphate and Oxytocin injection,” Okoye said.

He emphasised that his firm is one of the three drug makers in the country to have ‘Blow Fill Seal’ (BFS) machines, which can do the multiple task of blowing the bottle, filling it with polyethylene and then moving it to the conveyor belt to seal.

“We are conserving our foreign exchange because we are no longer going to import Oxytocin. Secondly, the cost of these drug is much cheaper than its imported counterpart,” Frank Jacobs, president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said.

Nigeria’s drug makers have invested N300 to N500 billion locally in new plants, vehicles, buildings and personnel.

They share 35 percent of the African drug market and over 70 percent of the West African market, according to PMG-MAN.

Swiss Pharma, Evans Medicals, Chi Pharmaceuticals as well as May &Baker have obtained the WHO prequalification, which enables them to participate in international drug supplies.

However, the industry is struggling with major players unable to sustain production pre-2015 years. Already Swiss Pharma has been bought by an investor after experiencing early struggles, while Evans Medicals has gone under. Incidentally, these two drug makers got the WHO prequalification, which ordinarily should raise the level of their competitiveness. The pharma industry depends on import for over 50 percent of their raw materials while patronage remains a major hurdle to cross. Capacity utilisation is less than 40 percent, say players in the industry.

A chief executive of a pharmaceutical industry told BusinessDay that the industry is struggling and some firms may go under except there are policies to protect existing investors that have pumped billions into the industry.

Some pharma firms complain that government’s executive order which deals with government patronage has not been implemented at all since its inception by the ministries, departments and agencies.

“Their challenge reflects the problems facing the industry. Patronage is key and remains something the industry wants the government side. Also, you must look at a business case in terms of incentive or protection of an industry before asking players to upgrade,” Okey Akpa, chairman of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said.



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