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Health News of Sunday, 13 October 2013

Source: GNA

Ghana to become hub of drug production in Africa

An international consortium is exploring the possibility of supporting Ghanaian pharmaceutical companies to fight the burden of diseases in Africa.

The Consortium of Partners for the Implementation of the Business Plan for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) is a plan mandated by the Heads of State of the African Union (AU) to build up the capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing in Africa, to make the continent self-sufficient in fighting diseases, including HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The plan will also fight against counterfeit and sub-standard medicines, and increase production of high quality and affordable medicines locally.

PMPA comprises the African Union Commission, UNIDO, UNDP, African Development Bank, United States Pharmacopeal Convention and Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations.

A 13-member delegation from the consortium has spent a week in the country as their first point of call in Africa to study ways of pushing the agenda forward.

The team, which is in Ghana at the invitation of President John Dramani Mahama, has met with officials at the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and National Development and Planning Commission.

They are understudying the public health situation in the country, the political will and commitment to ensure progress in the pharmaceutical industry and how industry players can produce drugs that would meet international standards of safety.

The consortium, visited LaGray, a leading Ghanaian pharmaceutical company at Nsawam in the Eastern Region to inspect facilities at the factory as part of the preparatory stages for the project.

LaGray is reputed for being the first company in West Africa with the technology to manufacture pharmaceuticals from start to finish.

Dr Zafar Mirza, Co-ordinator, Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property at the WHO in Geneva told the Ghana News Agency that the consortium was put in place to offer financial and technical assistance to support local pharmaceutical industries in Africa to grow.

He said in Ghana the pharmaceutical companies are producing under capacity and cannot even meet 30 per cent of drugs needed locally.

Dr Mirza said the bottom line approach of the consortium is to develop good pharmaceutical business plans for the local industries in order to boost production.

He gave thump up to LaGray for pioneering the innovation of producing active pharmaceutical ingredients and promoting research development.

“These are good encouraging signs,” he said.

Dr Mirza said the five-year timeline for the project had begin with the assessment visits and putting in place regulations, procurement and policy packages as part of the holistic approach.

Dr Paul Lartey, Chief Executive Officer of LaGray expressed the need for African governments to do more sourcing of drugs from local manufacturers, harmonise regulations and create an even field for competition.

He said the biggest gap for indigenous pharmaceutical companies is profitability and sustainability of production.

Dr Lartey, who is also the Chair of the Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations, said the zeal of LaGray to produce quality products is not going with the needed market to be able to break even.

He expressed the need for Ghana to expand the 14 drugs listed for restricted local production to enhance business growth.

Dr Lartey said LaGray is liaising with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana, Legon to develop cryptolepis sanguinolenta, a local herb use widely for the treatment of malaria, into tablets to aid the treatment of the disease.

The wide range of products of the company includes tablets, capsules, liquids, ointments and creams.

LaGray produce drugs for the treatment of infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS and its associated opportunistic infections, respiratory tract infections, malaria and other parasitic infections, fungal infections and tuberculosis.

Dr Alexandra Graham, co-founder and Director of LaGray said the company would establish another factory in Nigeria to boost marketing of its products.

She noted that the quality products produced by the company is accompanied by cost, which include payment of high tariffs for water and electricity, hence the need for a conducive environment to boost local production as done successfully in Tunisia and Morocco.

LaGray is developing affordable medicines for the treatment of diseases endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and to improve the quality of life in Africa as well as a portfolio of drugs for the management of key non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

The vision of the company is to become Africa’s premier healthcare company, providing innovative and affordable healthcare solutions to the continent.