Motivated by its public service orientation, the Niger State Drugs, and Hospital Consumables Management Agency is assisting citizens to manage the coronavirus challenge with lower prices on hand sanitizers that it produces. The Niger State agency produces and sells sanitizers at 100 percent lower than current market prices.
“Before the coronavirus scourge, we had started producing sanitizers in small quantities but now we are producing in large quantities, enough to be distributed to markets and hospitals,” said Mathias Pmabi, the Head of the Central Medical Store in the Niger State Drugs and Hospital Consumables Management Agency.
Where 250 mls of sanitizers go for N4000 in the market, the agency is producing and selling at N1,500 and, according to Pmabi, the agency would have been distributing it free but for the rise in the cost of the materials to produce the sanitizers. They also do not have adequate funds to pursue a free distribution policy.
Normally, the production of hand sanitizers and hand wash was not part of the responsibilities of the Niger state Drugs and Hospital Consumables Management Agency. The agency focused on storing drugs and consumables for hospitals across the state.
However, their proactivity has made the Drugs and Hospitals Consumables Agency the go-to place in Niger state to get hand sanitizers at an affordable and pocket-friendly rate in a time when the price of sanitizers has skyrocketed.
Months ago before the advent of the coronavirus, the Niger State Drugs and Hospital Consumables Management Agency had decided they were going to also veer into the production of sanitizers and handwash especially in the wake of Lassa Fever across the country and the fact that the state has always been vulnerable to these diseases.
As pharmacists, officials thought they could do more than merely dispensing drugs. They could also produce., the Executive Director of the Agency told The Nation.
The Agency has produced about 1000 units of sanitizers in the last two months. It has the capacity to produce in larger quantities but lacks the resources to do so.
“If you talk about the capacity, we have the capacity. For now, we have enough to go round but as the demand increases, we do not have enough raw materials to go round because the price keeps increasing.”
Speaking on the effectiveness of the sanitizer in preventing the spread of coronavirus, the Executive Director of the Niger state Drugs and Hospital Consumables Management Agency, Pharmacist Mohammed Audu said that the sanitizer is 99% effective as it contains Isoprophy Acholol (IPA) which is very effective in killing germs.
Audu said that the primary focus of the production of the sanitizers is to enable the people to be able to protect themselves from the coronavirus and enable them to get something affordable than the high rate it is currently being sold in the market.
“We have been producing in small quantities in the past but now, we have seen the need to scale up production because we need to rise to the challenge of the season. No one knows who has had it as confirmed and suspected cases are still coming up but we are working to get the people to protect themselves.
“We were fore-looking as we had procured equipment for fast production from Turkey last year but we have been unable to use it because the Engineer who was supposed to fix it up couldn’t come because his country had become affected by the coronavirus. We are working to get our local engineers to fix the equipment. When we are done, we can produce very large quantities in a go.”
The Executive Director believes that when this is done, the people in the state would be able to get sanitizers at an affordable rate stating that, “Sanitizers should not only be for the elites. Everyone should be able to get it.”
However, the quest for producing these sanitizers is being threatened by the indiscriminate rise of ingredients and materials needed for its production, “Right now, we are at the mercy of importers who have increased the price of the ingredients and materials for packaging the sanitizers overnight.
“Two weeks ago, one of the ingredients of the sanitizers which is very important have gone haywire. The IPA was N108,000 but now, it is N270,000 and the sellers are saying it may go higher. The containers are N800 as against N200. While the ingredients for the handwash is not expensive, the ingredients for the sanitizers have increased.
“The hand sanitizer is more preferable because once you use it, you won’t be required to wash your hands as is the case with the handwash. The hand sanitizer is alcohol and it kills viruses and bacteria within six seconds. We are trying to optimize this expensive ingredient with ethanol which is also alcohol-based”.
Audu said that the Agency is trying not to sell the sanitizers but to give it to those who will use it directly saying now is not about making money but about saving humanity.
He then called on the state government to mobilize resources for the agency to be able to produce quantities that can be distributed to every household in the state. He stated that most families cannot afford the high price of sanitizers.
“It is the government’s responsibility to produce these sanitizers and distribute it freely to the people but the resources are not just there. If we can get enough resources in this agency, I can assure you that every household in Niger state will have at least 250 ml sanitizer in their home. I am still trying to convince the Commissioner for Health to mobilize resources for us. If he can do so, then we are good to go.
“The high price of sanitizers worries me. You can imagine the stress faced by people just to get one of the sanitizers for their homes and themselves to keep safe.”