Government has said that it is imperative that regulatory standards in SADC member states be harmonised to improve the quality and availability of essential medicines ultimately reducing the disease burden.
“Patient access to quality essential medicines at affordable prices is among the prime challenges, SADC governments face,” said John Seakgosing, Minister of Health.
Seakgosing said the region is still faced with a challenge of supplying essential drugs to combat pandemic diseases such as HIV and AIDS, Malaria and TB.
“In recent years, the type, quality and volumes of such medicines required on one hand and their affordability by the poor segment of the population remains substantial,” he said.
As developing countries, to address the shortage against the background of tightened international patent rules and regulations, Seakgosing said SADC should take advantage of Trade Related Intellectual Properties (TRIPS) flexibilities to stimulate the domestic manufacturing of essential drugs.
“The pharmaceutical industry in the SADC region should take advantage of the extended deadline for TRIPS compliance extended to least developed countries and see it as a window of opportunity,” said Seakgosing. He added that facilitation of trade in pharmaceuticals within SADC region taking advantage of the free trade area will increase and improve viability and growth of the industry.
Botswana is aiming at ensuring availability and affordability of quality medicines to reduce the disease burden in the country.
“There is need to rationalize and optimize the research and production capacity of local and regional pharmaceutical manufactures of essential generic medicines and traditional medicines,” he said.
Seakgosing encouraged public private partnerships saying it is important if the region is to improve the accessibility of essential medicines to the people.
“Adequate enforcement infrastructure is a major prerequisite to allow for supply and distribution of essential medicines through ensuring a fully functional regulatory environment,” said Seakgosing.
The SADC integration agenda accords priority to social and human development, which helps in fostering of cooperation in addressing health challenges which are reflected in the high burden of both communicable and non communicable diseases.
Seakgosing said local pharmaceutical production should be seen as one way of increasing access to inexpensive high quality medicines in our region. “African countries consider the pharmaceutical sector as being of strategic importance in supplying the local population with life saving drugs, assuring continuity of supply of drugs,” he said.
In addition he encouraged SADC members to promote joint procurement of therapeutically beneficial essential medicines of acceptable safety, quality proven efficacy for the benefit of people.
“Mechanisms should also be developed to respond to emergency pharmaceutical needs, which are slowly becoming prevalent in the region,” he said.