Business News of Thursday, 27 July 2006
Accra, July 27, GNA - High tariffs and taxes on imported medicines in Ghana and other African countries are driving many people to traditional quack cures or to cheap counterfeit medicines. Ghana places 22.3 per cent levy on imported drugs; Congo-Kinshasa, 39.5 per cent; Morocco, 18.3 per cent and Zimbabwe, 22.5 per cent. Brazil, whom all the countries wanted to copy, levies nearly 30 per cent on imported medicines and South Africa slaps 14 per cent sales tax even on AIDS drugs.
Many developing countries compound the problem of weak health care systems by imposing a range of taxes on medicines, including port charges, central, regional and local taxation as well as import tariffs and Valued Added Tax adding significantly to a drug's retail price. Mr Franklin Cudjoe, Director of the Centre for Humane Education, said this at the opening of the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Representation of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industries in Accra.
It was under the theme: "Increasing access to medicines: Challenges and the Way Forward".
He said there was no clear data to know the magnitude of counterfeit drugs on the Ghanaian market but added that Nigeria had almost 50 per cent of its drugs being counterfeits. The situation 93is unclear and this is not good enough for the fight against diseases to promote good health", he said. Mr Cudjoe said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had estimated that one-third of the world population lacked regular access to essential drugs with more than 50 per cent of the figure in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia.
About three million children die every year because they do not receive basic medicines and treatments.
"So, if it is not your way of killing, then your government is. The real issue is not inventing new medicines but getting existing medicines to the people who need them."
Mr Cudjoe mentioned poor infrastructure in the African health systems that hindered the distribution of medicines to all those in need, let alone monitor treatment.
"Economic oppression is an even a more fundamental vector of many diseases of the poor. When governments restrict the ability of people to start up businesses and exchange goods freely under the rule of law, poverty and hopelessness are guaranteed."
Mr Cudjoe called on policy makers in poor countries to remove taxes, tariffs and regulations, which were barriers to the provision of healthcare.
He recommended that countries should consider improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their drugs regulatory agencies, so that companies developing new drugs were subject to fewer and less arbitrary restrictions on the marketing of their products, while safeguarding consumers.
Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, said it was unfortunate that the country lacked statistics to know the cost of disease burden to enable the Government know how much to set aside for management of diseases.
He challenged pharmacists to conduct research into these areas saying: "Research is not done by only research scientists and we should all take that as a responsibility".
The Minister urged pharmacists to help in the promotion of the Ministry's Health Paradigm Shift", that sought to create wealth through health.