There is an urgent need to develop the pharmaceutical sector in Africa to reduce the continent’s dependence on imported pharmaceutical and medical products, says United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s Soteri Gatera.
Chief of the Industrialization and Infrastructure Section at the ECA, Gatera, says Africa bears a disproportionate burden of disease with, for example, more than 70 percent of the world’s HIV/AIDS cases and 90 percent of deaths due to malaria raising the need to encourage local production of drugs.
Also, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had cited the need for medicine security noting that a country with a population size like Nigeria cannot afford to depend on importation of key therapeutic agents. MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs explained that investments in pharmaceutical plants will aid foreign exchange conservation, improve accessibility of the medicine to many Nigerians in terms of price and location as well as guarantee the potency of the medicine considering the environmental conditions in which the products will be manufactured.
Gatera added that immense need for drugs presents a potential market opportunity for pharmaceutical companies on the continent, saying the current number of persons on ARV treatment on the continent represents a market opportunity of over US$ 1 billion.He noted that this market will more than treble over the next decade as more people are placed on ARV treatment and other uses of ARVs are expanded.
The total pharmaceutical spending for the continent in 2012 was estimated at US$ 18 billion and it is projected to reach US$ 45 billion by 2020.“Non-communicable diseases are also becoming increasingly prominent across the continent given the demographic changes that are taking place,” he told participants in the meeting hosted by the ECA, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers
Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) Simon Okey Akpa urged for the right policies and support to encourage investments in the nation’s pharmaceutical sector.
Non-communicable diseases are predicted to overtake infectious diseases as the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030.The situation is worsened by the continent’s significant challenges in accessing high-quality pharmaceuticals, exacerbating a continued high burden of disease.
The availability of essential drugs in the public sector across the continent has been reported to be less than 60 percent. The major factor being that Africa is hugely dependent on imported pharmaceutical and medical products. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of ARVs used on the continent are imported from outside the continent with 70 percent of the pharmaceutical and medical products market being served by foreign imports.
“An international standard, commercially viable pharmaceutical industry in Africa can contribute to improved access to effective, safe and affordable essential medicines and economic development,” said Soteri.From the health perspective, he added, a key potential benefit is to develop a source of quality assured medicines across products including those for the pandemic diseases (HIV, TB and malaria) as well as the broader range of essential medicines.
Through proximity of production, resource-constrained regulators can properly oversee the manufacturing of products produced in the region compared to the level of scrutiny that is possible for distant suppliers, said Mr. Soteri.
Mr. Soteri also enunciated a number of measures taken by the AUC and its partners to promote the manufacture of medicines in Africa in line with the accelerated industrialization initiative for the continent’s socio-economic transformation. “The untapped opportunities lend themselves to a wide array of partnerships for the promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrial development. The partnerships would create higher-skilled jobs, build equitable societies and safeguard the environment, while sustaining economic growth,” he said.