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Sweet Codeine: How May & Baker Pharmaceuticals lost over N1 billion

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BY OUR EDITOR

May & Baker Plc, one of Nigeria’s foremost pharmaceutical companies has disclosed how it lost over a billion Naira, following Federal Government’s ban on the production and distribution of Codeine-based cough syrup.

It would be recalled that the government last year slammed an indefinite ban on the production, distribution and marketing of Codeine-based cough syrup and tramadol in the country, following the abuse of the drugs and in the aftermath of a BBC documentary, ‘Sweet, Sweet Codeine’, depicting the effect on the victims of abuse.

May & Baker has revealed that the ban caused it to lose N700 million in annual income as well as loss of raw materials and finished products worth over N350 million.

Briefing journalists in Lagos, at the weekend, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor, said most pharmaceutical manufacturers are contending not only with the loss of revenue but funds already invested in finished and raw materials.

Okafor who described 2019 as a challenging year, urged the Federal government to help pharmaceutical companies to pay for the drugs and then, sell them under strict monitoring and control.

“For the raw materials, we want to be allowed to convert them, if government also wants to take them over and monitor the usage that is also fine. That will be best for us,” he said.

READ: 119 Nigerians on death row for drug offence in Malaysia

According to VANGUARD online, Okafor said May & Baker is currently undergoing a major product portfolio restructuring.

“We were compelled in the last two years to discontinue the production of some of our top cash cow brands as a result of age and change in national treatment protocols and policies.

“Some of the products involved are our Sulpha-based ranges, the Nivaquines and 221 brands. These products were responsible for over N1.2 billion of our annual revenue in 2017,” he narrated.

Speaking on local vaccine production, Okafor who hinted that their joint venture company, Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, was running fully as an independent company said it was currently perfecting plans to actualise vaccine production. He stated that Nigeria spends close to N8 billion every year to import vaccines into the country.

Expressing hope that the company would soon actualise the national dream of local production, he said the company would save lives of Nigerians needlessly loss during outbreaks.

“When we start manufacturing locally, we are not going to save N8 billion because the government will still have to pay but there are some other services around the current procurement process and logistics for bringing in vaccines that the government is paying.

“For instance, the government pays 6 percent to UNICEF to bring in vaccines into Nigeria, the government spends a lot of money bringing in the vaccines like clearing it at the port etc, that will be substantial savings. There are other technical things around vaccines, by the time Nigeria has a capacity to handle all that, the cost of handling them will be saved.

“But above all, Nigeria is going to save lives because sometimes, when you have an epidemic, sometimes the response time is slow if you have to bring in the vaccines from outside.

“By the time we have these vaccines produced here, Nigerians will no longer be dying needlessly. African specified antigens, like Ebola, Lassa fever, some of those vaccines are not a priority for western countries. With capacity for vaccines we will be able to tackle epidemics and emergency activities,” Okafor assured.

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