Capacitate Local Pharmaceutical Companies To Manufacture ARVs, Gvt Told

THE Zimbabwe National Network of People Living With HIV (ZNNP+), has called on government to ensure local drugs manufacturing companies are fully resourced and equipped to manufacture life saving Antiretroviral medicines.

By Patricia Mashiri

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) championing HIV and AIDS issues in the recent years petitioned parliament to ensure uninterrupted availability of ARV drugs following reports of recurrent stock-outs and drugs unavailability.

Speaking  at the National Dialogue on the Manufacturing of Medicines in Zimbabwe, Deputy Health and Child Care Minister, Dr John Mangwiro said government was committed to address the challenges.

The government of Zimbabwe is aware of the health delivery challenges that PLHIV face and is committed to addressing these, particularly on availability of Anti-retroviral Treatment (ATR) medicines.

“It is important to note that the HIV Intellectual Property Amplified (HIPA) Programme came at a time when the government of Zimbabwe has made a commitment to take advantage of intellectual property rights as well as human capital in order to spur economic growth and guarantee the health of its people,” said Dr Magwiro.

He added that manufacturing of local ARVs has been endorsed at at presidium level and treasury had already allocated a billion Zimbabwean dollars to the kick-start the programme.

“As we strive to improve health delivery system in the country, The Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Constantino  Chiwenga supports the local manufacture of medicines. This was further reinforced by the Minister of Finance by allocating resources towards biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences, and pharmaceutical production.

“A budget of ZWL1.24 billion was allocated to the programme. This budget is 2% of the total budget going to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and this commitment will be translated to a clear and robust implementation plan.

Meanwhile, Tatenda Makoni, the ZNNP+ Executive Director said there was need to start walking the talk with regards to local manufacturing of ARVs.

“We need to come up with solutions to change the narrative of manufactures of HIV medicines which is critical. These solutions must capacitate our local pharmaceuticals and will see the change in prices in terms of procurement of drugs as we will be buying them locally. The local production of medicines was critical in the drastic reduction in drug prices resulting in enhancing access to millions of PLHIV in a low and middle income countries.

“Evidence generated globally over the three decades of the HIV pandemic has demonstrated that the intellectual property rights pose a significant barrier to access to newer and better medicines for HIV and other opportunistic infections particularly for low income and developing countries. Therefore, there is need to address these barriers in order for PLHIV to enjoy access to better medicines,” Makoni said.

Speaking on the same event, Emmanuel Mujuru, president  of the Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association said manufacturing medicines locally would not only improve health outcomes but also promote growth of the local manufacturing industry.

“Zimbabwe has a higher prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS pandemic which is about 1.4 million people. There is need for increase to affordable quality medicines, improve public health outcomes, promote industrial and economic development and ensure sustainable supply of essential medicines,” Mujuru said.

The HIPA project which is being implemented by the ZNNP+ aims to ascertain the level of knowledge on TRIPS flexibilities among its members and other significant stakeholders in Zimbabwe. The project seeks to support the local manufacture of medicines such that there will be drastic downfalls in prices as well as the number of people that will access them will increase significantly.

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