Nigeria’s central bank launches healthcare scheme to boost local manufacturing of drugs

NIGERIA – The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has unveiled a grant Scheme to help strengthen the public healthcare system with innovative financing of research and development (R&D) in new and improved drugs, vaccines and diagnostics of infectious diseases in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

The Scheme, called the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HSRDIS) is intended “to boost domestic manufacturing of critical drugs and vaccines” within the country, as the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit the country continues to grow, showcasing the need for local manufacturing of drugs, vaccines and vital supplies such as protective personal equipment, masks and gloves.

According to figures provided by the Africa CDC, Nigeria had reported more than 12,486 cases, 354 deaths and 3,959 recoveries from the pandemic by June 8, 2020.

One of the leading importers of pharmaceutical drugs in Africa, Nigeria’s imports of pharmaceutical products amounted to US$606.31 million in 2018, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

The CBN says that the grant funding is fixed at the maximum amount of N50 million (US$0.13m) for research activities and N500 million (US$1.29m) for development/manufacturing activities in the sector.

In a circular obtained on its website, CBN said the initiative was part of its policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The financier says that the objectives of the scheme include providing grants for R&D in new or revalidation of drug molecules, phytomedicines and vaccines; boosting domestic manufacturing of validated drugs and improving the capacity of biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies, institutions, researchers, and research institutes in the development drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines for infectious diseases.

Other objectives include facilitating partnership between academia and industry into the research and development of drugs, phytomedicines and vaccines and supporting the improvement of the capacity of relevant health agencies towards attaining WHO Maturity Level 3, a prerequisite for manufacturing of vaccines in Nigeria, with the ultimate aim of reducing the dependence on imported drug products and vaccines for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in Nigeria.  

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The CBN says that the scheme will be used to finance the following:

  • Research and development of candidate drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines validated by relevant health authorities for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases; 
  • Manufacturing of drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines validated by relevant health authorities for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases; 
  • R&D in new health technology for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases; 
  • Research partnership between academia and industry into the development drugs and vaccines for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases; and R&D into validated phytomedicines for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. 

However, the CBN states that candidate vaccines undergoing pre-clinical testing or trials shall not be eligible for consideration under this Scheme, but that candidate vaccines undergoing clinical testing or trials shall be eligible for consideration under the Scheme if considered to have high potential to cross the clinical trial stage and prospects of scale. 

The Scheme will be funded from the CBN’s developmental component of its N220 billion (US$0.57m) Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) and disbursement shall be made to beneficiaries in tranches subject to approved milestones achieved. 

“In applying for the grant, the applicant shall be required to have conducted pre- clinical testing of the candidate drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines, and obtained certification from relevant health authorities for further research and development.  Special consideration shall be given to candidate drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines with high scientific merit against emerging infections and contribute to the development of the Nigerian vaccine,” notes the CBN

A Body of Experts (BoE) made up of experts from academia and industry will review validated research proposal submitted and recommend for financing, as appropriate, added the CBN, noting that it shall have proprietary right over all financed R&D outcomes or products.

“Equally, licensing protocol for the mass manufacturing of developed drugs, phytomedicines and vaccines shall be defined by the BoE in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP),” the Bank concluded. 

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