ZIMBABWE is looking at boosting local production of pharmaceutical products to reduce over-reliance on imports, which at times presents a huge potential risk to national health security, according to a new Government policy document launched in Harare yesterday.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global medical consumables supply chains also require localisation of production of pharmaceutical products to ensure total control and citizens’ security. The country imports nearly 90 percent of its pharmaceutical products requirements, in the process expending hundreds of millions of scarce foreign currency.
The new policy “Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy In Zimbabwe 2021-2025” launched by Vice President Chiwenga, also aims to address some of the challenges besetting the industry including doubling production of essential drugs to 60 percent and grow revenue to US$150 million from about US$32 million.
This would be supported by private sector and public investments amounting to US$45 million.
About US$43 million is needed for upgrading factories, research and product development while US$2 million is for infrastructure upgrade.
The Pharmaceutical Sector Revitalisation Fund will also be set up to provide funding for the development of the sector moving into the future.
The roadmap, which will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, would be anchored on key pillars namely research and development, expedited registration processes of new pharmaceutical products, export orientation, compliance with good manufacturing practices and State support.
“The low levels of production have been attributed to industry producing pharmaceuticals products which are not on high demand and limited procurement by Government institutions amongst other things,” reads the policy document in part.
“The use of obsolete and antiquated equipment, cumbersome registration procedures and limited innovation have also affected the competiveness of the sector.”
The majority of local companies are not compliant to the World Health Organisation (Good Manufacturing Practices) standards.
There are only two local companies nearing compliance while the other six facilities have been considered unsuitable for pharmaceutical production, according to the document.
“The low level of local production especially on products which are on demand in the market poses a health threat to the economy.
“Implementation of the strategy will provide direction to increase local production of essential medicine both for local and the export market.”
The opening up of new markets through implementation of regional trade agreements at SADC, COMESA and the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents an opportunity for ready export markets for local firms.
The Government, in consultation with pharmaceutical sector will continuously revise and update list of pharmaceutical raw materials exempt from import duties and VAT to ensure that local products are competitive.
Further, the granting of Special Economic Zone Status will improve competitiveness through incentives.
The local pharmaceutical industry consists of nine pharmaceutical companies including CAPS Pharmaceuticals, Varichem Pharmaceuticals, Pharmnova, Datlabs, Plus Five Pharmaceuticals, ZimPharm Graniteside and Gulf Drug.Ecomed produces veterinary products.