The Managing Director, Merit Healthcare Limited and a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Dr. Lolu Ojo, has explained why pharmaceutical firm, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), ceased operations in Nigeria.
The parent body, GSK UK Group, had informed GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc of its strategic intent to cease commercialisation of its prescription medicines and vaccines in Nigeria through the GSK local operating companies and transition to a third-party direct distribution model for its pharmaceutical products.
Ojo, who is also a past chairman, Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP) and the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy (NAP) committee on drug and substance abuse, said before this announcement, GSK products had been very scarce in the market and the few available were very expensive, sometimes sold at six to seven times the normal prices.
He said there were a number of factors that eventually led to GSK’s exit, such as the Nigerian environment, which is hostile to businesses, whether international or indigenous. “Everything is stacked against genuine businesses, and only those who can cut corners are moving on, possibly cheating on the system,” Ojo said.
He said: “It has been extremely difficult to repatriate their (GSK’s) fund or pay for supplies due to scarcity of and fluctuations in foreign exchange. Immediately following are the huge losses attributable to foreign exchange movements.
“The floatation of the naira recently could mean that $10 million (in naira equivalent) waiting to be transferred since January may only amount to $6 million if transferred now.
“Unfortunately, GSK, by its own standard and avowed commitment to ethical ways of doing things, cannot do things the ‘Nigerian way’. There’s also the burden of being part of a Nigerian Public Limited Company with boundaries on what they can do normally.
“They had already exited East Africa, particularly, Kenya, which is their biggest market in that region. They will probably find a way to come back with a third party involvement.
“The market in Nigeria deals with established brands, which is not in alignment with the global strategy. The global focus now is on new molecules which are more profitable.”
Ojo said there’s no need to lament GSK’s exit. Rather, Nigerians should gird their loins and make the country a truly great destination for international and ethical business.
He recalled that this is not the first time big businesses would leave Nigeria. “Let’s remember the exit of Dunlop, Michelin, P & G and a host of others. It’s wake up time. Let the new government do something, positively and quickly too,” he added.