The high costs of production, lack of adequate capital, absence of manufacturing facilities compliant with World Health Organization (WHO) standards are the major challenges local manufacturing of medicines, including vaccines face in the country.
Despite the 38 pharmaceutical manufacturing units, yet, the country remained dependent on imports of about 70 per cent of the market.
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Mr Benjamin Kwame Botwe, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana who disclosed this at 3rd Edition of the Ghana Pharma Summit in Accra stated that challenges were underpinned by underutilisation and disuse of available pharma expertise.
This year’s edition of the Ghana Pharma summit is under the theme: “Positioning Ghana Pharma industry for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and vaccine production.”
The seminar, which brought together all stakeholders to share views on how the country could take full advantage of the (AfCFTA) and also look at vaccine production in Ghana.
The challenges, he mentioned were also compounded by the high costs of raw materials and transportation, machinery, interest charges on loans, electricity, and other utility charges.
Mr Botwe, therefore, urged the government to allocate funding to local pharma industries and help design a roadmap and strategic plan syndicated and aligned with stakeholders across all levels to coordinate efforts for the sector.
He suggested to the government to consider enacting legislation to restrict imports of certain medications, provide tax exemption for imported materials used for domestic production of formulations and ensure price preference for local manufacturers in public procurement.
Mr Botwe recommended to the state to facilitate a joint venture with foreign pharmaceutical firms to upgrade existing infrastructure and provide technical and financial support to local industries to meet WHO standards.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had been a wake-up call for Ghana and entire sub-Saharan Africa to build vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics manufacturing capacity as one of the resources needed to address public health crises.
“I and the entire pharmacy fraternity are, therefore, excited by the government’s recognition of the need to develop our capacity to produce our own vaccines domestically and reduce our dependence on foreign supplies, particularly amid global vaccine shortages and geopolitics. For me, this should have happened yesterday,” he noted.
Mr Harrison Kofi Abutiate, the Chairman of Ghana National Chamber of Pharmacy (Ghcop) stated that Africa lagged in access to vaccines due to insufficient global supplies and that the continent needed 1.5 billion doses to vaccinate 60 per cent of the population, the African Union’s current targeted threshold.
He said, “Across Africa, there was a shortage of vaccines due to rampant hoarding by wealthy nations, a problem compounded by India’s health crisis that has affected vaccine supply to many developing countries.
“Besides improving vaccine distribution and access through the COVAX facilities and some bilateral and multilateral arrangements, there should also be investments in African Research and Development and production of pharmaceuticals, as India has successfully done”.
Mr Abutiate said it was time for Ghana and the entire continent of Africa, to implement all development strategies, to position Ghana and the continent as suppliers of efficacious pharmaceutical products and not just importers and consumers.