Pharmaceutical companies seek support to reduce imports

Employees of Cosmos pharmaceutical company packing medicines in Kenya. Officials say they can produce more medicines if they are supported. Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti.

Local manufacturers in the pharmaceutical sector in the East African Community (EAC) have called on member states to amend procurement regulations and offer incentives to ensure that most medicines used in the region are sourced locally.

EAC countries rely mostly on pharmaceutical imports especially for branded and innovator products importing over 70 percent of medicines used in the region.

The overall target of the governments is to reduce the percentage of the imported medicine to less than 50 percent according to the 2nd EAC Regional pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action 2017-27.

However, pharmaceuticals companies in the region have raised a red flag saying governments are doing little to support the implementation of the policy.

“Imported products from China and India have the same advantage as those we manufacture while our companies employ locals and promotes local manufacturers.  Ait is not fair because the government is not helping local manufacturing,” said Rolando Satzke, Chief Executive Officer of Cosmos Limited, a local company based in Kenya

He was addressing journalists from EAC countries on Friday who are touring the region to assess the implementation of agreed projects that ease integration

“Our public procurement act does not differentiate between imported and local drugs and that is why we are strongly advocating that the public procurement act should favour local manufacturers first, that way, the government would really be helping the pharmaceutical industry,” he added. 

He further noted that the pharmaceutical companies in the region operate below capacity giving an example of Cosmos that operates at 70% while the average production capacity is 50 percent because there are unsure to get a market.

“There is still capacity to be utilized as soon as we see that the market is giving opportunities to reinvest and expand our capacities, we will do it and we are pretty sure, we are waiting for first signals and commitment of our government and doing so we will continue to invest not only in quality assurance but also in expansion of capacities,” he noted

It is expected that once regional pharmaceutical companies tap into the sector, the percentage of diseases covered by the product portfolio could be 90 percent in 2017 from 66 percent currently.

EAC countries have 66 pharmaceutical firms with Kenya leading with 40 firms, Tanzania and Uganda have 12 each while Burundi and Rwanda have one each.

EAC is working with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and East African Community Business Council (EABC) in regional steering and national coordination of the implementation of the EAC Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action (RPMPOA)

Bernd Schmidt, Deputy Programme Manager, at GIZ stressed the need for the government to support local manufacturing companies than importing from far, given that such companies are able to produce the same products while they can also create jobs to thousands.

EAC commits to support

According to Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC deputy Secretary General, the region will take the responsibility of mobilising and optimally deploying the necessary resources and personnel for the successful implementation of the plan.

“This coordination will seek to synergize and harness existing national, regional and international initiatives towards strengthening local production of pharmaceuticals,” he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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