Up to half of the population in Africa lacks access to essential medicines and health services, according to a WHO report “The World Medicines Situation”. The reasons for this span from lack of policies on medicines selection and use to the high price of medicines, lack of sustainable healthcare financing or reliable supply systems.
One of the possible solutions to the problem is to develop local manufacturing capacity and ensure that quality medicines produced nationally are more affordable than imported medicines.
The Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, on 14 July 2015, launched an ambitious 10-year national strategy and plan of action to develop local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in order to increase access to locally manufactured, quality-assured medicines. The launch occurred on the side-lines of the 3rd Conference on Financing for Development.
“Access to essential medicines is an integral component of universal health coverage,” said WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan. “I invite all development partners to join WHO in supporting the implementation of this strategic plan over the next 10 years.”
By 2020, the strategy aims to meet 50 percent of the local needs for essential medicines through local manufacturing.
It provides a long-term vision and a plan for the pharmaceutical industry that combines the objectives of industrial development policy and health policy, so the sector can develop, the economy can grow and people can access quality-assured affordable medicines. This 10 year strategy was developed by the Ethiopian Ministries of Health and Trade in collaboration with WHO.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, at the launch of the national strategy, emphasized that “This national strategy and plan of action will contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth and social development,” and called on all partners present and beyond to strengthen partnerships to support the Ethiopian efforts to significantly reduce poverty and become a middle income country by 2025.”
Ethiopia’s increased investments in expanding effective health coverage – grown to 95 % in 2013-14 – have already improved health indicators in the population, reducing child mortality and HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and have resulted in growing demand for health commodities. At the same time, better performance in industrial and economic policies has spurred foreign and local investments in the pharmaceutical sector.