BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
CABINET has approved the Ministry of Industry and Commerce five year pharmaceutical strategy aimed at reviving companies to improve availability of locally manufactured medicines at affordable prices.
Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza said the pharmaceutical strategy, which will run from 2021 to 2025, was birthed after realising that the local industry was contributing a paltry 12% to the medicine on the market. The country imports 88% of the life-saving drugs.
She said government institutions and hospitals will be encouraged to buy drugs from local manufacturers to boost production.
Nzenza noted that the thrust of the strategy was to increase drug production from 30% to 60% while revenue is expected to increase from US$31,5 million to US$150 million by the year 2025.
“The strategy is anchored on a collaborative approach with line parastatals, stakeholders and the private sector to achieve, through competitiveness, availability and affordability of locally manufactured medicine. Resultantly, this will ensure the development of a viable vibrant pharmaceutical industry strategically positioned to compete in global value and supply chain,” she said.
“The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has undertaken specific sectoral interventions on a value-chain basis to ensure resuscitation of strategic industries, import substitution and export development. This falls squarely within the scope of the aspirations of the local content strategy.”
She said the pharmaceutical sector was facing several challenges such as lack of financial resources, antiquated equipment, cumbersome registration process and limited innovation.
Local companies, Nzenza said, were not compliant with standards of good manufacturing practices (GMP) set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with only two local companies complying.
“To this end, the pharmaceutical sector has been identified as a priority in the National Development Strategy-1 (2021-2025) and Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy (2019-2023),” Nzenza said.
“The strategy is therefore designed to take the pharmaceutical industry to the next level by promoting local production and exports of medicines into the region.
“The sector will upgrade its manufacturing quality to meet international GMP standards and improve its ease of doing business.”
The nine local pharmaceutical companies, all classified under the small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), have failed to meet the demand for drugs as they use imported Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) to produce generic medicines, most of which are oral solid and liquid dosages.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association of Zimbabwe (PMAZ) has repeatedly bemoaned lack of foreign currency to enhance its capacity to make significant contributions to public health.
According to a study conducted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, implementation of the strategy requires US$45 million.