'Africa needs to produce more medicine'

posted by Alex Daniel
2 August 2018

Africa urgently needs to grow its pharmaceutical sector to become less dependent on imported medicine, the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said.

Soteri Gatera, the ECA’s industrialisation chief, said local production of drugs to treat diseases was vital, with 90% of worldwide malaria deaths and 70% of HIV deaths happening in Africa.

The ECA estimates that the continent spent a combined $18bn on imported medicines in 2010, a figure it predicts will reach $45bn by 2020.

Meanwhile, the availability of “essential” medicine to the combined public sectors of African countries was less than 60%, it said.

“An international standard, commercially viable pharmaceutical industry in Africa can contribute to improved access to effective, safe and affordable essential medicines and economic development,” Gatera said at a meeting which included representatives from the ECA, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Not only would increased drug production on the continent boost public health, but it also represented an opportunity for financial growth, he added, with the value of the market for people on antiretroviral (ARV) HIV therapy standing at around $1bn. 

This would likely treble over the next decade, said the ECA, as more people are placed on the treatment and more uses are found for it. 

Separately, Nigeria has recalled 2.4m bottles of cough syrup containing codeine after a BBC documentary this year uncovered widespread addiction to the drug.

Shortly after the documentary aired in April, Nigeria banned the sale of the syrup in pharmacies, but tighter restrictions have not been imposed until now. 

On Tuesday, Abubakar Jimoh, spokesperson for Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, said: “This is one of the measures to stem the scourge of drug abuse in the country.” 

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