Experts decry Africa's high dependence on imported medicines

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Experts on Tuesday decried Sub-Saharan Africa's high dependence on imported medicines.

Rory Horner, Britain's University of Manchester Lecturer on Globalization, told Xinhua in Nairobi that between 75 to 80 percent of pharmaceutical products consumed in Africa are imported.

"Imports of medicines may not be sustainable in the future and this could lead to shortages of vital medicines in sub Saharan Africa," Horner said during a forum on addressing challenges of local pharmaceutical production in the East African Community.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is currently assisting the East African states to develop local pharmaceutical industries.

Kenya has 31 pharmaceutical manufacturing firms, while Uganda and Tanzania have 13 and respectively.

Horner said competition from cheaper pharmaceutical producing nations is one of the biggest threats to local production.

According to Horner, one of the most effective methods for Africa to develop a vibrant pharmaceutical industry is for the local industry to be given preferential treatment in public procurement.

"This will help to nurture the local industry as government is usually the biggest market in any nation. However, it will take time to build local capacity and so collaborations with experienced players and countries is also vital," he said.

According to the scholar, locally produced medicines are more easily available to patients especially in public health emergencies.

"Evidence from Tanzania shows that domestically produced medicines are more available even in the rural areas as manufacturers tend to put more effort in supplying even the remote areas," he said.

Horner stated that the increasing incidences of lifestyle diseases in Africa caused by growing incomes also present a large potential market for local pharmaceutical firms. Enditem

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