Our people must have access to quality, affordable medical products – WAHO DG

Access to quality, safe and affordable medical products across West Africa is non-negotiable, the Director-General of the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, Prof Stanley Okolo has said.

According to WAHO Boss, all the 15 National Medicines Regulatory Authorities (NMRAs) must support the ongoing process to achieve the goal.

Prof Okolo spoke on Saturday at the opening of a Steering Committee Meeting of the West African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation (WA-MRH) Project at Swiss International D’Palms Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria.

He noted that there would be challenges along the line considering the limited human and financial resources, assuring that WAHO team is committed to ensuring that medicines are accessible to all in the region.

He identified the challenges to include: the length of time it takes to get medicines registered, the responsibility to strengthen the local production of medicines and the need to increase the quantum of medicines in the region, the fight against the high incidence of substandard and falsified medicines circulating in the region, and the improvement of the capacity building of medicines quality control laboratories.

However, Prof Okolo insisted “this should not deter us from achieving our common goal; and that is why we have agreed to jointly register and regulate medicines produced locally and imported into the region, with the aim of reducing the time of registration and improving access to medicines as well as ensure better regulatory oversight.”

He spoke further, “The quality of health of over 350 million people in the region is paramount, and it is a great honour for me to lead this steering committee to strategize and take decisions to ensure access to quality, safe, efficient and affordable medical products for the people. 

“I, therefore wish to use this opportunity to re-emphasize here that the region’s highest goal is to have medicines whose quality is not disputed and they are accessible to all, regardless of where people live.

Prof Okolo thanked the World Bank (Sponsors) as well as the technical partners for their outstanding contributions and efforts to the establishment and success of the Initiative in the West Africa Region.

Speaking, representative of the World Bank, sponsors of the WA-MRH Project, Aissatou Diack, a Senior Health Specialists, said World Bank is delighted to sponsor and spearhead the initiative to harmonise and regulate medicines in Africa, stressing the need to ensure transparency in registration of medicines.

To achieve this, she said there was need for regional coordination and capacity building while promoting partnership to achieve the regional action plan.

Diack said the World Bank would look forward to a mid-term review of the project with WAHO team later this year. The implementation of the WA-MRH project, which started in 2017, will end in 2020.

Representatives of the partners – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, UEMOA, African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, Swissmedic, European Medicines Agency, United States Pharmacopeia, DFID and UNIDO, also made brief remarks.

All the 15 National Medicines Regulatory Authorities (NMRAs) attended the meeting which reviewed activities in the region during the year 2018. It was preceded by a two-day technical committee meeting.