We must support growth of pharmaceutical sector

BY: Daily Graphic

Undoubtedly, Ghana has a pharmaceutical sector that has great promise and enough room to expand to match up with global names.

In addition to that, the herbal industry is also waiting to explode with the right infrastructural assistance. The two will make an enviable pair should we get the right mix.

For now, the plant medicine and herbal field has been left largely to the unlettered and quacks, so much so that the efficacy and wholesomeness of our nature-bestowed herbs have been put in doubt.

The fact that the Food and Drugs Authority recently approved Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta (Nibima), a herbal medicine, for clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 should tell us that our plants and herbs hold so much hope for our collective health as a people.

The Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR) at Akwapim Mampong in the Eastern Region has, over the years, come up with efficacious medicines from plants that hold the answer to many ailments that plague us.

Unfortunately, we have all been kept in the dark while their good work goes unnoticed because the infrastructure is simply not there to properly produce and package the medicines in large quantities, not only for the local market but also the international market.

Companies such as Kinapharma, Unichem, Ernest Chemists, Tobinco Pharmaceuticals, Ayrton Drugs, M & G Pharmaceuticals,Pharmanova Ghana, among many others, show how blessed we are as a nation when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry.

Nonetheless, all these companies are so handicapped that they can only do little just to stay in business. They definitely are not in a position to handle herbal products.

It is for this reason that the Daily Graphic sees it as very welcome news the affirmation of support by the First National Bank Ghana for the pharmaceutical industry with a set of products which are intended to meet the credit needs of players in the sector.

We couldn’t align more with the bank’s belief that banks, the government, regulators and the broader financial services sector in Ghana need to pull together in a constructive partnership to help grow Ghana’s pharmaceutical industry exponentially in these difficult times of COVID-19.

The fact that the First National Bank has played no mean role in South Africa’s pharmaceutical sector for several years and is responsible for the many large manufacturing and distribution companies in that country should tell us what investment support can do for the sector.

Indeed, with an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of six per cent just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the opportunity has always been enormous for Ghanaian pharmaceutical companies to do better.

While it is exciting that Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines for COVID-19 under the COVAX facility, it also provides an opportunity for the expansion of availability, distribution and local manufacturing of the vaccines in the shortest time possible, which can only be possible with support from financial establishments and the government.

“Providing funding for indigenous companies that enables them to increase capacity to meet the increasing demand for health care arising from the COVID-19 crisis is in line with our shared values,’’ the bank said, and that is gratifying.

That notwithstanding, the Daily Graphic calls on the government and the financial sector to invest in the pharmaceutical industry, so that Ghana becomes a net exporter of drugs and medicines, instead of always relying on imported medications which can be produced locally.

With the government’s deliberate investment, we will also save so much from what we would otherwise have used to import needed drugs, as we are doing currently.