Pharma sector pushes for more attention…outlines 7 focus areas for new administration 

President of PSGH, Benjamin Botwe

Players in the pharmaceutical sector are pushing for more attention, as they believe the nation’s economic growth can be accelerated through them – with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a lot of limelight on the sector.

As a result, two key stakeholders – the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG) and Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) – have outlined seven interventions the new administration of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo must pursue critically to make the dream of making the nation a pharmaceutical hub come to pass, sooner rather than later.

In conversations with the B&FT, leadership of the various associations and experts brought up issues which must be addressed to strengthen the sector and make it a key pillar of economic growth.

Manufacturing Policy

The first for them is drafting a holistic manufacturing policy. Benjamin Botwe, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), noted that the sector requires international, strategic and focused investment.

According to him, in the past a number of financial packages were given to players in the sector in a non-coordinated manner, thereby making it difficult to develop a growth pattern which should not be the case – but conversely, a properly structured investment programme would boost growth and sustain jobs.

Executive Secretary of PMAG, Lucia Addae, on her part asked for a pragmatic strategy to accompany the industry’s policy and ensure players receive the required support to pursue the nation’s pharmaceutical hub objective. “We need some cheap funds to inject into our operation. We need to help drug importers become manufacturers,” she said.

Human Resources     

It is the hope of the sector that its human resource capacity will be enhanced in the coming years. Players want the sector well-positioned to attract young graduates into pharmacy schools and the Ghana College of Pharmacists. This would help shape the manufacturing base, as there would be enough pharmaceutical and formulation researchers to support the ever-changing industry.

“We need more people for quality assurance and quality controls. We need people specialised in the production of different dosage forms: tablet experts, liquid experts, capsules experts, injectable experts and so on. You do not want to train generalists in this kind of business; this is a specialised form of job,” Mr. Botwe said.

Raw material production   

The country’s petrochemical industry has offered the sector a great opportunity to aid the manufacturing of some basic raw materials locally. The early days of COVID-19 saw many countries hold onto their raw materials – a situation that threw some panic into the global manufacturing space. Players want government to put in place some measures to support the production of raw materials to feed the local manufacturing industry.

Regulation Harmonisation

Players in the sector are not only calling for harmonisation of regulations in the sector, but also want strict enforcement. An efficient harmonisation, they believe, would keep the sector better focused and attract investors, as one would not have to move to different agencies to get certification of products.

Executive Secretary of PMAG, Lucia Addae

They noted that the establishment of a Bioequivalence Agency is long overdue and will position the industry as one that wants to go into exporting of drugs. The Bioequivalence Agency would be mandated to ascertain that the efficacy of drugs manufactured in Ghana is equal to the same drug manufactured in any part of the world.

Pharmaceutical Procurement Policy

The sector is also calling for a pharmaceutical procurement policy, which will mandate government to buy a certain percentage of its medical supplies from local drug manufacturing companies in order to ensure that money it (government) has pushed into the sector translates into growth of the industry.

They want the policy crafted to ensure that quality will not be compromised; also, pricing should not be a consideration for the procurement officer, as imported drugs might beat local drugs with pricing due to incentives available in their respective countries of origin.

Regional Medical Stores recapitalisation

Over the years, one of the challenges that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has faced is inability of Regional Medical Stores to pay drug suppliers on time. This has and continues to adversely affect the pharmaceutical sector. As at July this year, pharmaceutical suppliers were owed over GH¢300million, a development that made them threaten to halt their supply of drugs to health facilities under the NHIA.

For over two decades, the Regional Medical Stores have not been recapitalized – a situation that has led to the many challenges they face and makes it difficult for these stores to execute their duties diligently to support the health system. It is the view of the pharma bosses that this new administration must make it a point to recapitalise medical stores nationwide to help them revive their operations.

Community Pharmacy

The establishment of a community pharmacy model is key for players in the sector. The players are worried that persons in rural areas have been left disadvantaged, and life expectancy is at risk if measures are not put in place to establish community pharmacies nationwide.

The community pharmacist’s job would be to assess the condition of patients in rural areas and help them make decisions about which medicines they should take. They would also be involved in dispensing medicines and offering patients advice and practical help on staying healthy.

“We have hypertension and other long-term medical condition patients in the rural areas. Some of them need help, but they would have to travel long distances to get informed medical advice. It is the hope of the sector that priority will be given to community pharmacies in rural areas of all districts so that they can help make the nation’s health system better,” Mr. Botwe added

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