The African medical fraternity meets this week in Dar es Salaam to discuss the quality of locally-produced and imported medicines. The four-day meeting opening today comes at a time of increasing concerns about widespread distribution of sub-standard medicines on the continent.
The experts hope to come up with a raft of resolutions that will eventually save Africa from hazardous medicines. The World Health Organisation estimates that one in ten drugs sold in developing countries is fake or substandard, leading to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 42 per cent of counterfeit drugs globally, with children being the hardest-hit victims due to ineffective treatment of potentially deadly illnesses such as pneumonia and malaria. The medical community has a responsibility to influence industrial and government drug and medicine policies, and this means that experts gathering in Dar es Salaam need to focus on a foolproof strategy.
There are no suppliers if there is no demand. In African countries, demand is high – not for fakes, but for genuine and affordable medications.
Indeed, demand has triggered unrestricted market forces, and this has to stop because it does not assure the promotion of public health interests. Our priority should be the rational use of pharmaceuticals and enforceable agreements to control unscrupulous manufacturers and agents.
Their financial muscle makes it difficult to control them, but it is not too late. Our medical experts still have a chance to stop the rot, and, hopefully, African governments will act accordingly.
The idea of harmonising medical activities has been placed on the back burner for a long time, but we hope that this meeting will be a turning point that will eventually lead to the launch of the envisaged African Medicines Agency.
Recommendations from the workshop should also help African countries to establish and implement effective post-marketing surveillance programmes, which will warrant harmonisation of medicine regulations and good practices in alignment with the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation initiative.
PROTECT PROTECTED AREAS
Tanzania has plenty of habitable land, and it is hard to understand why anybody should insist on living in or near national parks, game reserves and other protected areas.
The government has in recent years been going out of its way – with varying degrees of success – to prevent further encroachment on protected areas by people seeking farming land and pasture for their livestock.
Encroachment on national parks and game reserves is largely to blame for the increased incidence of conflicts between human beings and wildlife in various parts of the country.
Wild animals do occasionally stray into settlements that are well beyond national park boundaries, destroying crops and causing injury and sometimes even deaths. However, humans are to blame for most of the unpleasant encounters between people and wildlife.
The relevant authorities need to do more to educate people on the harmful effects of invading and settling in protected areas.