Three pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria have been certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) to produce drugs in accordance with its Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).

The decision to grant clearance to Evans Pharmaceutical Ltd., May & Baker Pharmaceutical Ltd. and Chi Pharmaceutical Ltd. came after audits/inspections by the agency's pre-qualification team.

Four pharmaceutical companies in the country now have WHO approval, including Swiss Pharma Nigeria Ltd. which is already in production.

Pre-qualification certifies the Nigerian firms to join other companies within Africa and in other parts of the world in producing medicines for malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and for other United Nations coordinated projects.

Health minister Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu welcomed the WHO decision and said that Nigeria is now recorded among the nations of the world whose local drug industries manufacture at WHO standards.

"With this international vote of confidence, it is expected that international procurers of essential medicines will improve the patronage of Nigerian/African-based pharmaceutical manufacturers," he added.

The minister also noted that the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria had spent over $600 million to ensure that local manufacturers could achieve pre-qualification. He said that the government will consider incentives such as tax holidays to help the local drug industry recover its costs.

Other Nigerian pharmaceutical firms are still awaiting pre-qualification.

"On the whole 11 companies started this journey and four have scaled the hurdle. I am optimistic that the remaining seven will be pre-qualified soon while others are aspiring to join the race," Prof. Chukwu said.