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Invest in African R&D to boost manufacturing: WAPMA and PMGMAN's plea

By Natalie Morrison+

23-Jul-2012

WAPMA and PMGMAN are calling on African Governments to pump more money into R&D in order to boost the continent’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

At a recent summit, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN) chair Bunmi Olaopa said that by upping the number of new drugs coming from local R&D (research and development) pipelines, drugmakers in the region will have more chance of bagging production deals.

Kwabena Asante Offei, executive secretary of WAPMA (West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association), supported the view, telling in-PharmaTechnologist.com: “It ensures security of the medicines supply chain since inputs for the manufacture of such medicines would come from local sources and not some place beyond the ocean.”

Offei added that by performing more drug development locally, manufacturing could be more focussed to the needs of the African people.

“We as Africans cannot always rely on the donations of people, or to expect others to come up with solutions for us, so it’s important that we conduct our own research so we can make medicines relevant to the people,” he said.

He went on to speak about malaria – for which around 90 per cent of the disease population reside in Africa – saying that so far, all commercially available medicines for the disease have been developed outside the continent.

“This for us is not good enough,” he said. “The industry in Africa has to be able to undertake research to discover anti malarials from indigenous sources, develop them together with those which have already been discovered locally and make them available to the people of Africa.”

How can manufacturers help?

Offei maintained, however, that backing R&D alone would not drive the manufacturing business, and that help to build new facilities and improve existing plants is still needed.

He said that M&A (mergers and acquisitions) with Western firms could help to drive this, but warned companies looking to operate in Africa need to cater for local and international markets.

“Local content must not be left out otherwise the merger or acquisition will not be in the long term interest of the African people,” he told us.

He added investing in the skill sets of employees so that cGMP (current good manufacturing practices) standards can be kept would be a boon.

Government action

At the meeting, Olaopa stressed that action from the authorities will still be the key turning point for the sector but that with Africa currently accounting for less than five per cent cut of the global pharma producing sector, those in charge aren't doing their bit.

He warned that Government attitudes must change if Africa is to see any pharma growth.

Offei added: “The major problem for me is the political will to develop the drugs manufacturing industry. When the political will is there, financing will be taken care of, human resource capacity building in all relevant areas will also the taken care of.

“As I have already stated, local manufacturing ensures security of the medicines supply chain. No serious person puts his security into the care of a stranger.”

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