‘Boosting pharmaceutical sector crucial for Africa’s growth’

PharmaceuticalsThere is an urgent need to develop the pharmaceutical sector in Africa to reduce the continent’s dependence on imported pharmaceutical and medical products, said Economic commission for Africa’s (ECA) Soteri Gatera

Mr. Gatera, chief of the industrialisation and infrastructure section at the ECA, said this during the meeting hosted by the ECA that Africa bears a disproportionate burden of disease with more than 70 per cent of the world’s HIV/AIDS cases and 90 per cent of deaths due to malaria raising the need to encourage local production of drugs.

“Non-communicable diseases are also becoming increasingly prominent across the continent given the demographic changes that are taking place,” he added.

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 per cent. The major factor being that Africa is hugely dependent on imported pharmaceutical and medical products.

It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of Antiretroviral (ARVs) used on the continent are imported from outside the continent with 70 per cent 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 Mr. Gatera.

A 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. Gatera.

The immense need for drugs presents a potential market opportunity for pharmaceutical companies on the continent. The current number of persons on ARV treatment on the continent represents a market opportunity of over US$1bn.

The total pharmaceutical spending for the continent in 2012 was estimated at US$18bn and it is projected to reach US$45bn by 2020.

Mr. Gatera also mentioned a number of measures taken by the area under the curve (AUC) and its partners to promote the manufacture of medicines in Africa in line with the accelerated industrialisation 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.

The workshop sought to validate an ECA report titled ‘Review of Policies and Strategies for the Pharmaceutical Production Sector in Africa: Policy coherence, best practices and future prospective’ in which policies and strategies for the pharmaceutical sector in Africa are reviewed with a view to assess the level of policy coherence, capturing best practices and painting future prospects for the sector.

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