What have been the main achievements of Pfizer in Nigeria over the past five years?
In the last few years, performance has been steady. It is still a growing organization and commercially we are doing well, slowly increasing the number of employees, the vast majority of which are Nigerians. We are developing local talent and empowering more women. Next year will be our 60th anniversary in Nigeria.
What is the significance of the Nigerian market for Pfizer compared to the overall strategy that you have in Africa?
There are two sides to it. The commercial side is obviously small compared to the US and Europe, but there is a commitment that quality medicines should be available around the world. At the same time, it is commercially significant because Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to be the fastest-growing region for the next five to 10 years. On the corporate social responsibility side, we are relevant because everybody in the world needs medicines and Africa needs affordable medicines. We worked with the Lagos University Teaching hospital (LUTH) to set up its e-pharmacy. It involved the full computerization of the pharmacy department at LUTH. With this project, the patient flow system can begin to generate timely, reliable, and credible data useful for research purposes. Another example is our trachoma initiative, to help reduce the bacterial infection of the eye through surgery. Pfizer has treated over 15 million cases. We also established the Pfizer scholar awards program in support of medical education in Nigeria, to help and encourage students that excel in the areas of the pharmacy and medicine.
How can mobile technologies change the way health is looked at in Nigeria?
Approximately 70% of people in Nigeria have access to mobile phones. In my experience in China, I saw some doctors manage patients with chronic diseases through telephone and I see no reason why that cannot be replicated in Nigeria. In a largely rural country, telemedicine can also play a major role.
What measures can you take to fight and protect the brand from counterfeit products?
I supported the pharma group in the fight against anti-counterfeit the last time I was in Nigeria, as well as in Indonesia and Singapore. There is only so much we can do as a company; we must continue to collaborate with the government and other stakeholders through capacity building to identify counterfeit drugs and take appropriate action.
With your international experience, how would you rate the industry regulatory framework in Nigeria?
In terms of registering products, Nigeria is one of the fastest countries in registering new products; it takes about nine months, while in some other countries it can take three to five years to get a product through the system. Regarding regulating multi-national companies and pharmacies, there are organizations in place, but sometimes implementation fails. There is an informal pharmaceutical market in Nigeria. About 5,000 of them have legitimate licenses and perhaps twice as much as this have not. Beyond NAFDAC, there are organizations in Nigeria that are doing a lot of great work trying to close down such markets, like the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria. We will require a lot of more cooperation between regulatory agencies and relevant stakeholders in this area.
How do you find a balance between philanthropy and business?
Financial models have to change; we should be looking at smaller margins. The level of profit in Europe and the US is different from what we have here. A lot of companies can do a bit more if the government is prepared to do a lot more. We are here to do business, but we also believe that the environment would be better if people did not have chronic diseases. Prevention is key, and it has a high impact in our society, so we support a lot of preventive initiatives especially in the area of cardiovascular diseases. People who treat patients need knowledge, they need constant information, and they need to be up to date. We conduct training; this is one area we are investing in. Pfizer is one of the best in this area because we work with not only doctors but also pharmacists. We have the Pharmacy Academy, we hold cardio vascular summits, and through our online medical information we give doctors and pharmacists opportunities to know a lot more about our medicines. If we are able to train and improve the knowledge of those who treat patients, we would also have contributed a lot in terms of healthcare in Nigeria. We are now doing a lot more with retail pharmacies in terms of training, because the reality is that some patients go to pharmacies and buy their medicines.