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Push for African agency to combat counterfeit drugs

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-21 09:20

In an effort to control the proliferation of counterfeit medicines in Africa that have been claiming hundreds of lives annually, as well as promote the local production of medicines, the African Union has been encouraging member states to sign a treaty for the establishment of the African Medicine Agency.

The agency that will be born once the treaty is ratified by 15 member states will serve as the continental regulatory body to ensure that there are harmonized and strengthened regulatory systems, which govern the regulation of medicines and medical products on the continent.

And it will regulate the access to safe, effective, good quality and affordable essential medicines and health technologies.

It will achieve this through coordination of the ongoing regulatory systems, strengthening and harmonizing efforts of the AU Commission, the regional economic communities, regional health organizations and member states, providing regulatory guidance.

The treaty to establish the agency was adopted by the heads of state at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State on February 2019, but the pace of signing it has been slow.

So far, 14 countries have signed with a majority having done so during the recently concluded AU summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

"We are happy that member states have realized the importance of the agency. We are encouraging as many members as possible to sign the treaty which is very important for the continent's pharmaceuticals sector," said Elfadil Amira, the AU commissioner for social affairs.

Amira said the African Medicine Agency will be the second important technical institution to be established by the AU after the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is because the agency is part of building the capacity for our public health systems, part of putting direct interventions and supporting our member states directly in times of crisis, outbreaks and natural disasters," Amira said.

She said the agency is part of the implementation of the AU's plan of action to encourage manufacturing of medicines in the continent.

According to the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank based in India, Africa accounts only for 3 percent of the global medicine production and that 95 percent of the medicines consumed in the continent are imported.

While some countries like South Africa and Morocco produce 70-80 percent of their medicines, certain central African countries import close to 100 percent of their needs, the foundation said.

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