Invest in new drugs discovery to boost hub ambitions —Prof Ohemeng

Government’s ambition of making the country a pharmaceutical hub in the Sub-region could be achieved if strategic investments are made by government and industry to discover new drugs, a renowned Ghanaian Industrial Pharmacist, Professor Kwasi Adomako Ohemeng, has said.

“The bulk of the profit in the pharmaceutical industry is made by companies that discover new drugs and secure patents for them,” he said.

Prof. Ohemang told B&FT in an interview in Accra that: “There are several ailments being treated in Ghana with drugs which have been developed from outside the country and are not necessarily working. Our purpose for developing the pharmaceutical industry must, therefore, include the quest to fill in the unmet medical needs of the country.”

He indicated that the pharmaceutical companies in the country have not invested into any commercial research that will enable them to discover new drugs to help address the many health challenges peculiar to the country.

“Currently there is no company in the country discovering drugs and that is quite disturbing because we need to do things here and find drugs to meet our peculiar unmet medical needs,” he said.

Speaking about his new discovery, Omadacycline, a world-class antibiotic which is expected to enter the global pharmaceutical market next year, Prof. Ohemeng, explained that he led an optimisation team to successfully develop the Omadacycline, an antibiotic which is under US Patent number 7,056,902 assigned to Paratek Pharmaceuticals, a US-based Biotech Company.

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Prof. Ohemeng, who is also the Dean of the School of Pharmacy, Central University College, was recruited from another global pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) to help the company fast-track the process of development.

“It took 17 years between discovery, clinical test and approvals to get the Omadacycline product finally approved,” he said.

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has granted approval for the use of Omadacycline for the treatment of adults with community-acquired bacterial pneumonia (CABP) and Acute skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI).

The once-daily Intravenous (IV) and oral antibiotic is a modern tetracycline that has the activity against broad spectrum of bacteria including drug-resistant strains of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Omadacycline is the first-in-class aminomethylcycline, which can overcome antibiotic-resistant bacteria in two main ways, by ribosomal protection and efinx group.

The intravenous (IV) and oral antibiotic is a product assigned to Paratek. It offers clinicians the opportunity to treat patients intravenously and the transition to oral administration which can reduce hospitalization and cost associated with hospital admission.

The FDA decision to approve the drug for the approved indications was based on multiple clinical trials that assessed the efficacy and safety of the drug in a total of three phase trials that evaluated the drug in 2,150 participants. Omadacycline is also being evaluated for the treatment of urinary tract infections.

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Industrial potential 

Although 70 per cent of pharmaceutical products used in the country are imported, the industry is expected to reach US$1 billion in value by the end of 2018.

Contained in the Ghana Business Development Review Report, compiled by the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) in June this year, the report said although local manufacturers had the capacity to fill the gap, Ghana still depended on the importation of pharmaceutical products.

The report indicated that most of the imports were from India and China and had left the local manufacturers with only 30 per cent of the market share in the country.

“The local industry has an installed capacity for both solid and liquid dosage forms to supply all domestic needs, as well as enough for export. There is, however, capacity under-utilisation–less than 55 per cent on average—as a result of inadequate resources,” the report said.

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