Every hоѕрitаl in Afriса, оn a daily basis, uѕеѕ nееdlеѕ оn a mаjоritу of thе раtiеntѕ they ѕее.
Just likеѕ gloves, nееdlеѕ and ѕуringеѕ are аn essential аѕресt of hоѕрitаl рrасtiсе in Nigeria. Thеу аrе widеlу used to collect blооd ѕаmрlеѕ fоr invеѕtigаtiоnѕ, tо аdminiѕtеr injections аnd fоr other рurроѕеѕ.
Excluding the purpose of sample collection for diagnosis purposes, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) conservative estimate pegged the number of injections administered annually at 16 billion out of which 5% are for immunizing children and adults, and 5% are for other procedures like blood transfusions and injectable contraceptives.
The remaining 90% of injections are given into muscle (intramuscular route) or skin (subcutaneous or intradermal route) to administer medicines. This global trend is similar in Nigeria where health practitioners are giving injections even though there are oral treatment options.
“We know the reasons why this is happening,” says Dr Edward Kelley, Director of the WHO Service Delivery and Safety Department. One reason is that people in many countries expect to receive injections, believing they represent the most effective treatment. Another is that for many health workers in developing countries, giving injections in private practice supplements salaries that may be inadequate to support their families.”
Since the trend is not ending anytime soon, multi-billion dollar sector has emerged, one that is expected to reach USD 1.64 billion by 2021 from a market value of USD 1.22 billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 5.98%.
The steady rise in the syringe market has been linked to the increasing Prevalence of chronic diseases, rising aging population, and technological advancements in Syringe drug delivery.
While increasing prevalence of diabetes resulted in higher demand for syringes, the major factor limiting the growth of the global syringe market has been factors like risk of infection associated with drug delivery through syringes, and the high costs of specialized syringes.
In 2015, WHO called for the adoption of syringes with improved safety features. It however admitted that donors would be required to heavily subsidize the cost of the smart syringes which cost at least twice the amount for the regular types.
Investigations revealed that several Nigerian hospitals that initially adopted the smart syringes had since returned to the more popular and cheaper type.
“We cannot continue to buy those ones again because if we do that, patients will have to pay more for lab tests and other procedures. Also, there are so many types of those new needles. We cannot be retraining our busy workers how to use needles all the time especially when there is nothing wrong with the popular type,” a top hospital manager at the University College Hospital Ibadan said.
Nigeria wants a piece of the syringe cake
In September 2017, Nigeria’s Vice President, Ayo Osinbajo commissioned the $25 million syringe manufacturing plant belonging to Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company located in Akwa Ibom state.
While the ceremony was part of activities celebrating the state’s 30th anniversary, it was the culmination of a series of discussions, negotiations and agreements involving the government (federal and state) and various interest groups including the Syringe and Needle Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (SNMAN) headed by Zubeyir Gulabi.
In an interview, Gulabi said the Nigerian government agreed to, and approved a number of concessions for syringe and needle manufacturers including waivers and taxes on imported syringes and needles that will encourage investors.
The raw materials for the manufacture of the syringes are gotten from crude oil. Since Nigeria is one of the world’s leading oil-producing countries, it is expected that it is better positioned to be a major producer of needles and syringes. But the reverse is the case. Until SNMAN secured landmark agreements with the government, the country’s 8 manufacturing facilities were not producing to their maximum capacities.
Across Nigeria there are 8 syringe factories – 2 each in Calabar and Ilorin and one each in Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt and Kano.
“There are 8 factories in Nigeria, ours cost $25 million which means the 8 will be worth $200 million. The 8 factories can employ around 2,000 people. 2,000 families. I promised the federal government that within one year, 6 factories will be working,” Gulabi said.
Industry’s baby and father
Gulabi is also the Managing Director of Nigeria’s newest syringe manufacturing company, Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing (JSM) Company Limited which he also described as the father of the industry.
Even though it is currently producing at 75% of its capacity, JSM produces 700,000 syringes daily and over 350 million syringes yearly.
“This is a good sector for sustainable development,” he said.
Bringing Nigeria’s syringe demand into perspective, Gulabi said even at full capacity, the company will be unable to completely meet the needs of the Nigerian market even though it is already capturing international attention and recognition for its product’s high quality.
He said, “Before Jubilee started, almost 95 per cent of the products were coming from China because other factories started early, but some closed down, while some are in comatose.”
It was also gathered that the factory has more demand than it can supply. The store was largely empty as the workers attempt to fulfill orders.
This does not suggest that the company does not have international ambitions. The product has already reached Sierra Leone, Benin Republic and China.
“Last year, we took sample to the European Medical Trade Fair. One German company wanted to partner with us because of the quality, they could not believe that this is a product made in Nigeria. The quality is good,” he added.
When asked what other things the facility need to improve its production and completely satisfy its investors, Gulabi said he has all that he needs to work efficiently.
But on a second thought he said he and other syringe manufacturers would be happy if Nigeria’s electricity problem can be tackled. According to him, the facility whose workers are mostly from Akwa Ibom, is incuring high electricity bill on a monthly basis.
He however admitted that the concessions given by the Nigerian government covered the electricity costs when everything is in order – but it does not mean the company will stop paying millions of Naira monthly on electricity.