The East African Community (EAC) has kicked off the implementation of the EAC Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action (EACPMPOA 2012-2016) by setting up a project steering committee comprising players from partner states.
According to a statement from the EAC secretariat, the committee has representatives from the health, industrialisation and EAC ministries as well as medicine regulators, pharmaceutical manufacturers among others.
"The platform has been put in place to address the challenges the region is facing in the provision of safe, efficacious, and affordable quality essential medicines. The provision of such medicines and other quality health commodities remains a major challenge in the region due to inadequate local production and over reliance on importation of finished pharmaceutical products from outside the region," reads communiqué.
EACRPMPOA is based on the six pillars of development including: promotion of competitive and efficient pharmaceutical production regionally; facilitation of increased investment in pharmaceutical production regionally; strengthening of pharmaceutical regulatory capacity in the region; development of appropriate skills and knowledge on pharmaceutical production in the region; utilisation of TRIPS flexibilities towards improved local production of pharmaceuticals and mainstreaming innovation, research and development within regional pharmaceutical industry.
Initiatives to be prioritised in the implementation include; implementation of local purchase preference scheme by national procurement agencies; regional pooled procurement of raw materials for the sector; development of quality infrastructure for the manufacture of the products; development of an inventory of essential medicines to be produced locally; increased investment in the sector; strengthening of pharmaceutical regulation and value chain among other initiatives.
Jean Pierre Niyitegeka, the Director of Social, Political and Legal Affairs in the Ministry of EAC Affairs, The New Times on Friday that through the bloc's Plan of Action, local pharmaceutical manufacturing will benefit mainly in: savings on foreign exchange through import substitution, employment creation, development of exports, and increased access to essential medicines.
"Also, regional pooled procurement of raw materials for the sector will benefit Rwanda reducing expenditure on imports. The MOH in HSSP III [Third Health Sector Strategic Plan] seeks to increase local production of medicines and other commodities and enhancement of good manufacturing practices," Niyitegeka said.
Niyitegeka said the anticipated cost of implementation of the plan of action is approximately $45 million, to be raised from Partner States, development partners and the regional pharmaceutical industry.
According to Niyitegeka, the bloc's pharmaceutical sector is characterised by net imports of pharmaceuticals, largely from India and China and it varies from country to country.
The sector is still in its infancy, in Rwanda. Niyitegeka said: "We have one pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, Pharmaceutical Laboratory of Rwanda (LABOPHAR) with estimated pharmaceutical market size of USD $25 million. Over 95 per cent of medicines consumed locally are imported."
Accordingly, Rwanda seeks to increase the percentage contribution of manufacturing to GDP to 26.5 per cent. The priorities for medical products management and regulation under HSSP III include increasing local production.
A policy has also been developed within the EAC, regarding Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), with flexibility for pharmaceutical manufacturing and transfer of technologies