Improved drug standards aimed at protecting the quality of veterinary medicines used to treat a deadly infectious disease will help save the herds of millions of African smallholder farmers from decimation, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.
The initiative, launched in tandem with the International Federation of Animal Health (IFAH), will seek to establish the first pharmaceutical standards for medicines used in treating Animal African Trypanosomosis, a disease more commonly known as Nagana, as well as protect farmers and their animals from counterfeit and poor quality drugs.
Transmitted by blood-sucking insects such as the tsetse fly, Nagana affects cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, horses and donkeys - animals which are vital to the incomes and food security of millions of African smallholder farmers.
Each year, the disease causes an estimated $4.5 billion dollars in economic losses from reduced output of milk and dairy products, abortions of unborn calves, and lost fertility resulting in reduced agricultural productivity.
The effects of the disease, however, are only exacerbated by a black market trade in sub-standard and non-registered drugs worth around $400 million dollars annually.
"The use of substandard drugs to treat Nagana not only leaves farm animals inadequately protected from the disease, but also permits the evolution of tougher, drug-resistant strains when insufficient doses are used," said FAO chief veterinary officer Juan Lubroth, who heads the agency's Animal Health Service.
Mr. Lubroth also added that the counterfeit drugs could pose a threat to human health "if chemical residues accumulate in meat or dairy products that enter the food chain."
The new standards spearheaded by the FAO will provide a basis for evaluating the quality of animal medicines and serve as a measure against which national and local authorities can test for regulatory compliance.