By Chioma Obinna
Worried about the scourge of fake drugs through the borders, West African Health Organisation, WAHO, has urged 15 West African countries to invest in drug manufacturing even as it disclosed that it is conducting a study across the region to determine the prevalence of fake drugs in each of the 15 countries.
The Director-General of WAHO, Prof Stanley Okolo made the call in Lagos during the 5th Steering Committee Meeting of the West African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization Initiative.
According to him, Africa’s porous borders have become a serious challenge to most drug regulatory agencies in the region, stressing that having drugs manufactured within the countries and region would significantly check the menace of fake drugs as well as ensure easy monitoring and control.
“It is well established that porous borders contributes to the influx of fake drugs. We do not have to wait for our borders to become strong. Let us stop for once and think about what that means.
“If we have strengthened and harmonized regulations in terms of surveillance and quality, we do not have to wait for the borders to be strong, even in America today, people are talking about walls and this is because you cannot make the borders so strong. We can have drugs manufacture in the region and that will ensure there is quality,” he stated.
He further stated that countries do not have to wait for 20 to 30 years for WHO prequalification for some of their pharmaceutical companies but if they are not getting that, they can use only Good Manufacturing Practice, GMP, and produce only for West Africa.
“I have not signed up for that but it becomes imperative and objective for us collectively with our technical partners and World Health Organisation, WHO, with others who wish to support us to try and see how we move some of our pharmaceutical companies towards that.”
He stated that WAHO was interested in regional manufacturers adding that they do not have a say or interest in whom it is but if it is possible in the region, it would create access to low cost, secure and high-quality drugs.
Okolo explained that the main purpose of the steering committee meeting was to appraise the Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (MRH) related activities in the region during the year 2018 and to recommend key actions and activities to be implemented in 2019 with the sole aim of strengthening the performance of the project.
“The quality of health of over 350 million people in the region is paramount, and it is a great honour for me to lead this steering committee to strategize and take decisions to ensure access to quality, safe, efficient and affordable medical products for the people,” he affirmed.
He added that the region’s priority is to have medicines whose quality is not disputed and they are accessible to all, regardless of where people live.
Speaking, the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof Christianah Adeyeye said: “Our goal is to have quality medicine for our people and to do that, we have to build quality into our local manufacturing.”
On his part, WHO representative and the Group Lead, Regulatory Networks and Harmonisation Regulatory Systems Strengthening, Dr Samvel Azatyan said although there were challenges and problems initially, the commitment of the steering committee members was commendable.
“Together we are working to achieve our goal to make pharmaceutical products available, efficacious and accessible in Africa.”