East Africa Pharma Summit Examines Linkages Between Domestic Policies, Industry, Trade And Health 29/02/2016 by Fredrick Nzwili for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)NAIROBI, Kenya — As the budding East African pharmaceutical industry shows clear gains , experts at a pharmaceutical summit in Kenya underlined the sector as key to tackling challenges related to access to essential medicines in the region. L to R: Sinhue Noronha, CEO Emerging Markets, Strides Shasun; Emmanuel Katongole, chairman CiplaQCIL and chair of the board, TLG Capital; Emmanuel Mujuru, chairman, Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers; and Walker Lahmann, executive director, Eurofarma Laboratorios S/A Recently, East Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector has surged in spite of major challenges in policy, technology transfer and financing. Now, there is a general agreement that joining together to tackle these challenges can quicken its take-off. Currently, the provision of safe, efficacious and affordable quality essential medicines and other health commodities, for the region’s nearly 140 million people is a challenge. “This is due to inadequate local production and over-reliance on importation of finished pharmaceutical products from outside the region,” Nicholas Muraguri, the principal secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Health, told the African Pharmaceutical Summit (APS East) 2016, which convened from 24-25 February in Nairobi. This is the third in a series of African conferences organised by Pharma Africa Ltd, a company whose mission is to provide platforms to enable growth of quality in the industry. It was attended by policymakers, industry leaders, regulators, academicians, investors and scientists. Under the theme, Building competitiveness and enhancing markets, key players and professionals in the pharmaceutical sector discussed essential linkages between the sector and domestic policies related to the industry, trade and health. The APS also provided space for companies to exhibit their products and services. Similar summits were held in Ghana in February 2015 and Tunisia in September 2013. “Our objective is to provide a platform to facilitate growth of a quality African pharmaceutical industry that competitively contributes to the healthcare needs of Africans and everyone living in Africa,” Miles Mudzviti, PharmaAfrica founder and chief executive said in the conference welcome note. Local manufacturers in East African account for a small share of donor-funded drug procurement in sub-Saharan Africa estimated at between $750 million and $1 billion, according to Muraguri. At the moment, Kenya’s 33 drugs manufacturing companies meet 30 percent of the demand in East Africa, according to Julius Korir, principal secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade. Korir said although they have capacity to produce 80 percent of the demand this has not been possible. Officials say the failure is partly due to the inability of the manufacturing companies to meet globally approved quality standards. “The local firms have been striving unsuccessfully towards WHO [World Health Organization] pre-qualification, mainly due to the requirement for WHO pre-qualification in donor sourcing which the majority of local manufacturers have not achieved,” said Muraguri. Most companies here make simple drugs mixtures, while the demand for more complex medicines, such as those used to treat non-communicable diseases, such as cancer has increased. Experts’ list of critical challenges facing the sector includes quality, efficacy, and safety of the medicines produced locally. Access to the medicines and the sustainability, their procurement and trade barriers in the sector are some of the other challenges. The sector also lacks proper data to enable practitioners make informed policy decisions. Need for Skills and Technology Despite the sector’s centrality in the region’s health sector, the region lacks skills and relevant technology, a gap that is being filled India and other foreign countries. Ideally, universities and colleges running pharmacy programmers would solve the challenge, but there is a big gap between the academia and the industry, the conference heard. “The knowledge is there, but implementing it within the industry is the challenge,” said Palu Dhamini, chairman of Kenya Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. “We are now talking to the universities to ensure they produce people with the right skills.” Yet, a take-off in the sector is not far off if key policy changes that bring about a coordinated approach, technology transfer and innovations, and government investments are implemented, according to experts. “This is possible because we have identified and proposed solutions. The challenge is to move from the rhetoric to practicability. Everyone has to move beyond the rhetoric,” said Ibelema Emeh, principal at the UK-based SETAX Training and Consultancy. “A coordinated approach is needed for the manufacturing sector,” added Mariatou Jallow, the head of sourcing and procurement of health products at the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Governments should start putting the money where the money is needed. It is possible. We need to make the effort.” But for Emmanuel Katongole, chairman of Cipla Quantity Chemicals Industries, the Uganda-based generics manufacturer, this could prove difficult unless governments give preferential treatment to local industries, deal with infrastructure problems such roads and electricity supply, and people learn what it takes to do the business. “It is a NO, unless we realise that aid is good when it can make aid useless in the future,” said Katongole, whose company is the only authorised in sub-Saharan Africa to produce tri-combination of antiretroviral drugs. The conference also stressed the role of donor community in stimulating the growth of East Africa’s pharmaceutical industry. For example, Kenya has annual budget of US$220million for HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, much of which is spent on imports, according to Muraguri. “The fund keeps growing. You need to find out how you can use the money to stimulate local manufacturing,” the official said. According to officials, donor agencies are now starting to look into the local market for their supply, but the challenge has been the pricing, quality and capacities. “Price and quality are a priority for donors who may want to source drugs from the local pharmaceutical companies,” said Atieno Ojoo, a pharmaceutical technical officer in UNICEF’s supply division. “The pricing of a new pharma is not competitive. We need to agree with donors and development agencies to enable local manufacturers step up,” said Edwin de Voogd, the managing director at the IDA Foundation. Ojoo and de Voogd were among speakers at a plenary session on leveraging donor procurement and commodity donations for market development. Unlike several years ago, there is now wide consensus among governments on the need to develop the local pharmaceutical sector. Recently, governments have shown an appetite for welcoming the private sector, observed speakers. But they cautioned that there has to be acknowledgement that the issues at hand are too complex to be solved by a single player. Key steps taken by governments within the East African community to move the sector forward include harmonising regulation to enable pharmaceutical companies in the region to launch a single application for marketing authorisation. This is expected to become possible when the East African Community Medicines Regulation Harmonization Project and EAC Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action (EACRPMPOA), 2012-2016 are fully implemented. 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