COMESA, UNAIDS in pact to promote local production of pharmaceuticals

The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and COMESA Secretariat have formed a partnership that will enable the latter to develop a pharmaceutical production strategy.

The strategy is intended to harmonize the production of medicines and related products in the region.

In  a press statement,the partnership entailed among others, technical and financial assistance to COMESA in crafting and adopting the strategy.

The UNAIDS representative to the African Union Ms. Rosemary Museminali and COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya discussed the matter in a meeting between the two at the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka.

“UNAIDS is eager to assist the COMESA Secretariat in developing a Pharmaceutical Strategy framework for the region, one that will guide the regional private sector to increase production in order to meet the requirements of the general populace at affordable prices.” Ms. Museminali said.

She called on COMESA Secretariat to develop a concept note that will be circulated to key stakeholders in order to raise funds needed to fund the various activities in relation to crafting the framework.

Appreciating the UNAIDS pledge for support, Mr Ngwenya said the strategy will help drive the current COMESA initiatives towards eventual production of pharmaceuticals in the region and Africa at large which depends on more that 80 percent on imported pharmaceutical and medical products.

“The support will help in both the development and the implementation of the pharmaceutical strategy,” he said.

Currently, COMESA is working on a co-operation framework among member States in the manufacturing of essential drugs and an amendment of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement on compulsory licensing for medicine.

Mr Ngwenya and Ms Museminali acknowledged that pharmaceutical production in and for Africa was not only imperative to guarantee affordable access to drugs and commodities for AIDS and other health challenges on the continent, but presented an opportunity for Africa and COMESA in particular to industrialize and join the global value chains.

“The role of pharmaceutical companies in the health care system around the globe as indispensable especially in reducing the time spent in hospitals thus improving the quality of life and human development.” he said

Currently 38 members of the African Union have some form of pharmaceutical production.

Yet the companies vary in product quality and the ability of the regulatory authorities to enforce standards. Manufacturers largely rely on imports for most of inputs.