THE REMEDY

Nigeria 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Lekan Asuni, Managing Director of GSK Pharmaceutical Nigeria, on changing patterns of consumption, the potential for reform, and the importance of eradicating counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Lekan Asuni
BIOGRAPHY
Lekan Asuni holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). He is an Alumnus of Ashridge Business School, UK and has also attended several general management and function-specific workshops and courses locally and internationally. He is a non-executive Director on the board of GSK Consumer Nigeria. Asuni has considerable general management, and diverse senior leadership experience. He is a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, other distinguished professional bodies, and the President of the Association of Nigerian Representatives’ of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.

How large is your manufacturing footprint in Nigeria?

GSK started basic manufacturing in the 1970s with a facility dedicated to the manufacturing and packaging of over-the-counter medicines. Our current arrangement is such that we collaborate with contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) to make the most basic products in our portfolio, while other products (especially ethical products) are imported. Our aspiration has always been to manufacture products locally and, following a recently held global business review, we now have the approval to set up an antibiotics factory in Nigeria.

What are GSK's expectations for patterns of consumption?

We want to expand into the future of Nigeria. The country has a population of 170 million, with 70% living below the poverty line. Many Nigerians live on a daily wage of about $2 per day. With $2 they need to cater for their needs such as shelter, healthcare, nutrition and transportation. As a company, we are committed to expanding access to a greater percentage of the population, bearing in mind that people who earn $2 per day should be able to access our products. One of our key philosophies is to provide access to medicines by actively seeking new ways of delivering healthcare and making our products more available and affordable to people who need them, wherever they live and their ability to pay. With this in mind, our aspiration is to expand access to 80% of the Nigerian population by 2020.

What are your expectations for the new administration in terms of legislation for the industry?

We expect that the new administration will drive reforms, which will lead to a transformation where the industry will be able to actualize its potentials. Counterfeiting is still a challenge and we, as a part of the industry, look forward to opportunities to collaborate with the government in designing and executing an anti-counterfeiting legislation with penalties that will serve as a deterrent to offenders. We are also looking forward to the government developing policies that will increase universal health coverage and access to medicines. Furthermore, we expect the government to drive reforms that will enable competitiveness of the industry. As a key player in the pharmaceutical industry, GSK will continue to support these reforms.

Counterfeiting is not a recent development in Nigeria. What measures can you implement to fight it and protect your brand?

Counterfeiting has far-reaching implications. For the patients and consumers, using counterfeited medicines could lead to loss of life. As a brand owner, we risk the loss of revenue and reputation damage. To fight counterfeiting, we constantly assess the impact of counterfeiting on our product portfolio and proffer mitigating solutions. As a leading pharmaceutical company, GSK is targeted by counterfeiters because of their attraction to its successful brands. We, therefore, take proactive steps to put in place covert and overt systems that safeguard these brands. In addition to these systems, we run awareness campaigns to ensure that consumers can identify the genuine products. Our sales force, who are ambassadors, are also trained in actions to take whenever they identify counterfeit products. In order to collaborate further with regulatory agencies, we conduct capacity building programs for the National Agency for Food & Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). We extend such activities to include the judiciary and customs. With these systems and the support of the relevant agencies and regulators, we are able to stem the counterfeit issue.