Challenges facing patent medicine vendors in Nigeria

Patent medicine vendors are considered one of the major backbones on healthcare delivery system in Nigeria as a result of its closeness to the grassroot. They play an important role in the health care sector of Nigeria (Uguru, Onwejekwe, Uzochukwu, Igiligbe & Eze, 2009). They also contribute to national development by positively influencing the distribution of income in both functional and nominal terms. In emphasizing the importance of patent medicine vendors, Emeka (2005) stated that they provide valuable grassroot service and also enhance capacity building as they create employment opportunities

Despite the critical role of patent medicine vendors in the health care delivery system some of their major challenges in Nigeria Include:

  1. Financial problems
  2. Management problems
  3. Inadequate basic infrastructure
  4. Socio-cultural problems
  5. Strategic planning problems
  6. Poor accounting system
  7. Multiple taxation
  • Financial problems: Majority of the patent medicine dealers in Nigeria are stifled because of poor financing and other associated problems. The problem of financing is not so much the sources of funds but its accessibility. Factors identified inhibiting funds accessibility are the stringent conditions set by financial institutions, lack of adequate collateral and credit information and cost of accessing funds (Higgins & Deeks, 2008).
  • Management problems: Lack of trained manpower and management skills also constitute a major challenge to the survival of patent medicine vendors in Nigeria. According to Livinus, Ibrahim, Isezuo and Bello (2009), 90% of all failures experienced by patent medicine vendors result from lack of experience and competence. They also added that efficiency in overall business management and poor record keeping is also a major feature of most businesses, technical problems/competence and lack of essential and required expertise in production, procurement, maintenance, marketing and finances have always led to funds misapplication, wrong and costly decision making
  • Inadequate basic infrastructure: Government has not done enough to create the best conducive environment for the striving of patent medicine vendors, the problem of infrastructures ranges from shortage of water supply, inadequate transport systems, lack of electricity to improper solid waste management. Nigeria’s underdeveloped physical and social infrastructures create a binding constraint to patent medicine vendors’ growth, since; they heavily rely on the inefficiently provided state infrastructures and cannot afford the cost of developing alternatives (Adikwu, 1996).
  • Socio-cultural problems: Most Nigerian patent medicine vendors do not have the investment culture of ploughing back profits. Oshiname and Brieger (1992) stressed that the attitude of a typical Nigerian entrepreneur is to invest today and reap tomorrow. Also, the socio-political ambitions of some entrepreneurs may lead to the diversion of valuable funds and energy from business to social waste.
  • Strategic planning problems: Patent medicine vendors often do not carry out proper strategic planning in their operations. Oshiname and Brieger (1992) stated that one problem of patent medicine vendors is lack of strategic planning. Sound planning is a necessary input to a sound decision-making.
  • Poor accounting system: The accounting system of most patent medicine vendors lack standards hence, no proper assessment of their performances. This creates opportunity for mismanagement and eventually leads to the downfall of the establishment.
  • Multiple taxation: This has become a major problem especially given the role of unions, tax consultants and agents hired by local governments. They are often crude in their operation, excessive in their assessment and destructive in their relationship with the production process. They tax everything in their bid to generate revenue without considering the net effect to household incomes and employment (Egbon, 2014).


Adikwu, M. U. (1996). Sales practices of patent medicine sellers in Nigeria. Health Policy and Planning, 11, 202–5.

Egbon, A. A. (2014). Pharmacy laws and practice in Nigeria. Ikeja, Nigeria: Literamed Publications.

Emeka, M. C. (2005). Treatment received by under fives having fever before presenting at the children’s outpatient clinic of a tertiary health facility in Owerri, Nigeria. Ann Afr Med, 4, 68–71.

Higgins, J. & Deeks, J. (2008). Selecting studies and collecting data. In: Higgins J, Green S, [ed.]. Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. Manchester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

Livinus, C., Ibrahim, M. O., Isezuo, S. & Bello, S. O. (2009). The impact of training on malaria treatment practices: a study of patent medicine vendors in Birnin-Kebbi. Sahel Med J 12, 34-42

Oshiname, F. O. & Brieger, W. R. (1992). Primary care training for patent medicine vendors in rural Nigeria. Social Science and Medicine, 35, 1477–84.

Uguru, N. P., Onwejekwe, O. E., Uzochukwu, B. S., Igiligbe, G. C. & Eze, S. B. (2009). Inequities in incidence, morbidity and expenditures on prevention and treatment of malaria in southeast Nigeria. BMC Int Health Hum Rights, 9, 21-28.

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