Op-ed: We need to curb the rising risk of fake medical products

Richard Amalvy, Chief Executive of the Brazzaville Foundation, Prof. Moustafa Mijiyawa, Minister of Public Health of Togo, Greg Perry, Assistant Director General IFPMA, and Michel Sidibé, Special Envoy for the African Medicines Agency of the African Union, published an op-ed on 28 May.

"Imagine a sick child in a lower-income African country, suffering from a life-threatening condition and being cared for by desperate parents. The family is offered medication at a price they can afford, but unbeknownst to them, the offer is by unscrupulous traffickers of fake medicines. The family parts with the little money they have.

They administer, in good faith, a medication that in the best-case scenario will do nothing and in the worst-case scenario would harm the child, failing to treat the disease.

For almost a quarter of the world’s population, this could be an all-too-familiar reality.  Astonishingly, nearly 2 billion people lack access to essential medicines, vaccines, and medical devices. 

Where there is demand, there will be supply, and this vacuum is, too often, filled by substandard and falsified medicines, peddled by organizations searching for profit, no matter what the human cost. 

These organizations will kill over 122,000 children under five, who die each year due to poor-quality antimalarials in sub-Saharan Africa. In several African countries, falsified medicines account for between 30% and 60% of all medical products.

In the latest four-year period, the World Health Organization received 1,500 reports of substandard or falsified products, with the largest number of the reports coming from the African continent. Since the onset of COVID-19, this figure has only increased, opening new challenges in supply chains with falsified vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics in circulation.

More shockingly, up to 169,000 children with pneumonia may be dying each year due to falsified or substandard antibiotics or antimalarials, with 116,000 deaths from malaria for similar reasons in sub-Saharan Africa.

COVID-19 has amplified the urgent need for African countries to invest in effective and efficient regulation of medicines, medical products, and technologies. The ratification and establishment of the African Medicines Agency will be an essential instrument to strengthen the fight against substandard and falsified medicines and medical products and enable all patients in Africa to have access to quality medicines that are safe and effective.

In January 2020, at the initiative of the Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé, the Brazzaville Foundation organized an international summit in Lomé to discuss the challenges that substandard and falsified medicines pose to global security, supply chains, and to some African communities.

The event brought together six African heads of state and ministers from the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Uganda. Together they launched the Lomé initiative to criminalize the increase and spread of falsified and substandard medical products. Gambia has recently announced that it is also joining this fight and the World Health Organization and African Union continue to support this unique global initiative.

The seven states that now support the Lomé initiative have committed to fighting the trafficking of substandard and falsified medicines via ratifying existing international agreements, introducing new criminal sanctions against traffickers, and raising awareness about this public health issue. 

But further action can and will be taken by implementing a roadmap that specifically will help with the development and implementation of national plans to combat this traffic in its systemic dimension via advocacy, a stronger regulatory framework, and capacity building. These plans will have to be designed in an inter-ministerial manner.

This week is Africa Week and the 74th World Health Assembly. These events follow last week’s Global Health Summit, where world leaders called for stronger and more transparent drug supply chains, strong regulatory systems as well as equitable access to medical supplies.

To pursue this vital conversation, the Brazzaville Foundation gathered a set of global leaders Tuesday to continue to discuss this worrying public health and security issue. Their impetus is to smash the estimated $200 billion illegal market of substandard and falsified medicines, representing up to 15% of all drugs in circulation. 

The roundtable discussed the challenge that despite holding 17% of the world’s population, Africa only produces a small portion of the medicines.

Panelists agreed that the implementation of the Lomé initiative would be paramount to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in need of essential medicines. It was evident from recent discussions that the demand for essential medicines is outstripping supply in African nations — which illicit activity is taking advantage of.

Having taken stock of existing and new national and global initiatives, panelists have assessed how COVID-19 has exacerbated the increasing risk of falsified and substandard medicines circulating in Africa.

With leading figures from the African Union, WHO, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, we have discussed how to strengthen future health systems and supply chains and improve our security and state of law.

We agreed that only together, in partnerships, can we build robust supply chains and national plans to ensure that everyone has access to affordable quality medicines and medical devices to achieve universal health coverage by 2030."

See the article on the Devex website.

Greg Perry

Jean-Yves Ollivier, elevated to the rank of Commander of t…

Actualités

On 17 November in Paris, H.E. Mr El Hadji Magatte Seye, Ambassador of Senegal to France, conferred the insignia of the National Order of the Lion on Jean-Yves Ollivier, international mediator and Founding Chairman of the Brazzaville Foundation.

17-11-2021

From COP22 to COP26, the Brazzaville Foundation has been p…

Actualités

From 1 to 12 November, the Brazzaville Foundation is present at COP26 in Glasgow to support the member countries of the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC), which will be advocating the urgent need to preserve the Congo Basin, an African and global issue.

02-11-2021

Congo Basin at COP 26: A message from Prince Michael of Ke…

Actualités

Addressing the leaders and partners of the Congo Basin Climate Commission at COP26 in Glasgow, HRH Prince Michael of Kent recorded a message in French and English encouraging them to strengthen their efforts to preserve the Congo Basin.

01-11-2021

Retirement of Nicholas Chance from the Board of Trustees

Actualités

Nicholas Chance, CVO, retires from the Brazzaville Foundation's Board of Trustees with effect from 1 November 2021. He was a major contributor to its creation in London in 2014 and 2015 in the wake of HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Royal Patron, to whom he was then Private Secretary.

01-11-2021

The Treaty for the creation of the African Medicines Agenc…

Actualités

On Tuesday 5 October, Cameroon became the 15th member state of the African Union to deposit the instrument of ratification for the Treaty for the creation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) alongside Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda...

06-10-2021

From COP22 to COP26, the implementation of the Congo Basin…

Actualités

30 September 2021 in Brazzaville – The Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC) and the Congo Basin Blue Fund met at a summit chaired by Denis Sassou N'Guesso, President of the Republic of Congo. An introspective meeting, three years after the c...

05-10-2021

Togo ready to ratify the treaty for the creation of the Af…

Actualités

The fight against falsified and substandard pharmaceutical products steps up in Togo, signatory and coordinator of the Lomé Initiative. On Wednesday 15 September, the Council of Ministers adopted a draft law for the ratification of the treaty on the creation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA). ...

16-09-2021

The Congo Basin Blue Fund at COP 26: the latest guidelines

Actualités

Tuesday 14 September in Brazzaville - Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and the Congo Basin, Technical Coordinator of the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC), chaired a technical meeting to call on all stakeholders to adopt a transversal approach in view ...

16-09-2021

Libya peace process: the progress of an African solution

Actualités

The African Union is pursuing its efforts to find an African solution to the Libyan crisis, represented by the Chairperson of its High-Level Committee on Libya, Denis Sassou N'Guesso, and supported by, among others, Jean-Yves Ollivier, President of the Brazzaville Foundation. African problem, Africa...

30-07-2021

Fighting against fake medicines: strengthened commitment o…

Actualités

Brazzaville, 30 July 2021 - Mr Gilbert Mokoki, Minister of Health and Population received this morning Mr Richard Amalvy, Director General of the Brazzaville Foundation. During this audience, they discussed the progress achieved at the international and national levels of the Lomé Initiative against...

30-07-2021

Congo Basin Blue Fund: on the way to COP26

Actualités

On Sunday, 25 July, in Brazzaville, the Ministry of the Environment, Sustainable Development and the Congo Basin of the Republic of Congo, the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC) and the Brazzaville Foundation’s teams gathered around Minister Arlette Soudan-Nonault. This meeting ended a series of ...

26-07-2021

Peace in Libya: An unprecedented meeting between Denis Sas…

Actualités

On 20 June in Brazzaville, a meeting took place between President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Chairperson of the African Union's High-Level Committee on Libya, Sheikh Farhat Jaabiri, spiritual leader of the Ibadites, and the President of the Brazzaville Foundation Jean-Yves Ollivier.

23-06-2021