By Michael Gwarisa
THE Southern African region is in the process of setting up a regional African Medicines Agency (AMA) that will oversee issues of medicines control in a bid to curb the movement of counterfeit medicines in the region.
Speaking to Journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing 67th WHO Regional conference in Victoria Falls, African Union Head of Division Health, Nutrition and Population Department of Social Affairs, Dr Margaret Agama- Anyeti said the the AU was tasked by regional health ministers to set up the the authority by 2018.
“The African Union commission in partnership with WHO, have been tasked by a task-force which was established by the ministries of health following their endorsement to set up the African Medicines Agency by 2018 on the continent. The idea for the AMA is to ensure that the continent no longer has substandard, falsified, counterfeit drugs.
“It is a super regulatory body which will be formed by national regulators from all the countries. Before it can be operational, at least 15 member states would have to ratify the treaty for its establishment which we are currently working on,” said Dr Anyeti.
The issue of counterfeit medicines has been cause for concern in Zimbabwe with most unscrupulous business people having been singled out as the chief smugglers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, some of which are suspected to be counterfeit, while others would have expired.
Over-the-counter medicines are those drugs that can be dispensed without a doctors’ prescription but often require a licensed pharmacist to sell them.
“There a lot of counterfeit drugs on the continent and also some which are imported in the continent. So you can imagine that this has implications for the health of our people given that they think they will be receiving good medicines while its fake.
“That compromises the health our people. We have been asked by the ministers of health and this has also been endorsed by the executive council of the AU to establish the agency by 2018. Therefore, we are walking through the milestones towards its establishment,” she said.
She added that Pharmaceutical companies are the main stakeholder in the establishment of the authority and they will work closely with them to ensure their views are also listened to.
“The Pharmaceutical companies are the main stakeholders, given that most countries do already have national regulatory bodies. Some countries are in the process of establishing their own, the goodness of this AMA will be to support countries that already have regulator in place and countries that don’t have regulator in place.
“They can then call upon this continental body to support them in the national regulation.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe already has the Medicines Control Authority (MCA) as the chief regulator in the sector that ensure quality of the drugs that come into the country is looked at.