The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Mr Ben Botwey, has called on the government to prioritise the pharmaceutical industry to help tackle health issues during critical periods like now what is being experienced.
He said the reliance on imported drugs had led to the decline in the provision of the necessary resources to grow the industry.
The call was made during the third edition of the Ghana Pharmaceutical Summit which was held in Accra on July 30 on the theme ‘COVID 19: the capacity of the pharma industry, what lies ahead’.
“To make our pharmaceutical industry very strong in this country, cautious national efforts need to be geared towards the whole value chain of the industry,” Mr Botwey noted.
He said it was important for the country to make the industry a national priority like India has done, explaining that “when COVID came to meet all of us we had to look for the resources and we had the president leading the process to look for the resources to be able to tackle it.”
He said pharmacy had become very critical all over the world, adding that “in Canada for instance the government is paying 75 per cent of the salaries of community pharmacists for them to be retained in jobs because it was realised that when there is a lockdown pharmacist would have to work to provide the needed medication.”
Business as usual
Mr Botwey, who was the Chairman for the summit, said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ghana and the African continent as a whole meant that the pharmaceutical industry meant that it could not be business as usual going forward.
He said it was time for the country and the continent to implement all the development strategies to position the country and continent as suppliers of pharmaceutical products and not just importers.
“COVID 19 has taught us many lessons and in recent times, the African Union recognised the need for being able to manufacture medicines in Africa so that we can limit capital flight in terms of the resources that are spent on medicines for our various health situations on the continent.
“They have therefore developed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa which has been endorsed by all heads of states and expected to soon set up an African Medicines agency,” he noted.
He said the documents for the establishment of the agency was ready, awaiting finalization and rectification by member countries.
On the West African front, he said the region had also seen the formation of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and had developed a document known as the ECOWAS Pharmaceutical Plan that had a very comprehensive section on the development of pharmaceutical products in West Africa.
“In this document are a number of elements to support pharmaceutical manufacturing, developing the appropriate human resource, looking for the financial resource to do this, and the technical system to get them pre-qualified for the international market,” he stated.
Back in Ghana, he said there was a document known as the Pharmaceutical Sector Strategic Development Plan that was with the National Development Planning Commission.
He said the time had come for the elements of all these documents to be brought to fruition as the continent was faced with the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“Many countries have become vulnerable, including Ghana, and this is telling us that we don’t have to continue to do business as usual. We have to implement all the plans available and make Ghana and the continent a source of pharmaceutical supplies, net exporter of pharmaceutical technology, design, human resource, equipment and packaging materials,” he pointed out.
Role of herbal medicines
The Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine, Mr Kofi Bobi Barimah, who was a panellist at the summit, said herbal medicines could play a very crucial role in the country’s fight against COVID- 19 if given the needed attention.
He said herbal medicines could play a crucial role in the management of COVID 19 by acting as anti-oxidants to help support the immune systems of individuals.
“Currently there a number of Medicinal plants and herbal products that are known to have anti-viral properties and anti-oxidants.
“That is why you hear that people should take lots of fruits and vegetables. But for most of these fruits and vegetables, the constituents that are in, you get more of it from the leaves and various parts of the plant itself which are used for herbal medicines.
“So we may have various medicinal and herbal products that may act in different ways to reduce the impact of the virus on those who have been affected,” he explained.
He therefore urged the Pharmaceutical industry to take the herbal aspect of medicine very serious and come out with standardised dosage forms and formulate them into a very convenient form that will be available for public use.