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General News of Friday, 12 July 2013

Source: Daily Post

Ghanaian Pharmaceuticals Collapsing

There are simmering undercurrents brewing within the local manufacturing industry following calculated and mafia-like tactics, which have seen a slow but well-choreographed take-over of the importation, marketing and distribution of pharmaceutical products by a largely Indian-owned cartel.

Months of investigations by this paper can reveal that the once flourishing local pharmaceutical industry which gave rise to the likes of Vicdoris Pharmacy, Bediako Pharmaceuticals/Ernest Chemists and East Cantonments Pharmacy to mention but a few, is now struggling to survive as an international cartel has taken over through shrewd and wicked methods.

Interestingly these foreign pharmaceutical organisations rather than choose to invest in the local manufacturing sector have rather employed their international connections to outmanoeuvre established local pharmacos and take over their distribution contracts leading to loss of business and retrenchment of employees.

This paper is in possession of a series of communication between the pharmaceutical sector, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and its mother Ministry, the Ministry of Trade but indigenous pharmacos seem to be fighting a losing battle and are now almost on their knees as decades of distribution contracts are virtually wringed from them through the sheer might of international pharmaceutical cartels.

The Indigenous Pharmaceutical Business Association (IPBA), a group of Chief Executives in the industry has been championing a campaign to get government to support a bill in parliament protecting local pharmaceutical companies by ensuring that only locally owned pharmaceutical organisations are permitted to import, distribute and sell pharmaceutical products.

The IPBA has faced an uphill task since 2008 when it heightened its campaign, according to our investigations.

A letter written by IPBA Chairman, Ernest Bediako in 2008 and addressed to the GIPC mentioned amongst others the fact that international pharmaceutical manufacturing entity Laborex, which had partnered with Gokals, mutating into Gokals-Laborex had managed to take away the distributorship of Pfizer from Ernest Chemist and Denk products from Vicdoris Pharmacy.

One paragraph of the strongly worded letter, which was in response to the arrogant posturing of Gokals-Laborex, said: “Laborex is a major player in the world. Their parent company reports annual sales of 16.7 billion Euro (That was in 2008). Such a company has the financial capacity to undertake major manufacturing of very sophisticated pharmaceuticals that local manufacturers are not able to produce. The Ghanaian economy cannot afford for companies like Laborex to be involved exclusively in trading especially when the products of interest to them are the ones that have been developed over the years by indigenous Ghanaians. We gives examples of Pfizer products which Ernest Chemist Ltd developed on the Ghanaian market for close to 30 years and Denk Pharmaceutical products which Vicdoris Pharmaceuticals developed on the Ghanaian market for 16 years.”

An angry Bediako stated in the said letter that foreign direct investment did not give the carte blanche to allow all and sundry to come and set up shop in Ghana, no matter what the long term effect will be on the strategic business interest of indigenes.

The IPBA Chair was particularly furious at the argument by Gokals-Laborex that it had created local employment and countered that all the latter had done was to take business from the indigenous companies and poach their representatives/employees. No new employment had thus been created. The overall gain to Ghana and Ghanaians, the letter stated, is nil.

IPBA letter said: “The importation, marketing, distribution and retailing of pharmaceutical products in Ghana should be wholly reserved to 100% Ghanaian owned pharmaceutical concerns. This point is supported by the fact that the importation, marketing, storage and distribution by wholesale and retail is governed by the Food and Drug Law 1992 (PNDC. 305 b) and the Pharmacy Act 1994 act 489 because of their strategic nature and for the security of the health of the nation.”

The GIPC has been responsive to the indigenous pharmaceutical companies through several meetings and to and fro communications but deep-seated wheeling and dealing synonymous with the international face of the industry have stalled attempts to pass an appropriate bill to protect the local companies.

Are the powers that be compromised by the power and money play of the international pharmaceutical companies? Who is monopolising the distribution of drugs to the NHIS, Hospitals and Schools? What is the true state of the indigenous pharmaceutical industry today? Stay tuned for more damning revelations in subsequent editions.

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