The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for Ghana and the entire sub-Saharan Africa, to build vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics manufacturing capacity as one of the resources needed to address public health crises.

As part of efforts to promote local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and to make Ghana the manufacturing hub of the sub-region, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has engaged stakeholders in the sector to take their inputs on the proposed list of medicines restricted from importation. Submissions were taken from the Food & Drugs Authority (FDA), Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations Ghana (PMAG), Pharmaceutical Importers and Wholesalers Association of Ghana (PIWA), PSGH and the GMA, among others.

The FDA, on their part, reviewed the proposed list of products and provided the needed comments to guide decision-making, based on the requirements for registration of such products as well as the capacity of the local manufacturers to manufacture such products in the desired quality and quantity.

The PSGH commended the stakeholder engagement and in principle, supported the restriction of selected medicines for local manufacturing only, as a way of building local capacity in medicines sufficiency. This is in line with the 10-year strategic plan of the PSGH. The PSGH however, called for an evaluation and impact analysis of the first restriction that was done in 2016.

The PIWA, on their part, highlighted some inherent public health and economic risk that comes with the restrictions and called for a clearer roadmap that includes the need for local manufacturers to build technical and volume capacity and meet regulatory requirements, a roadmap to facilitate contract manufacturing among others. PIWA also recommended that the ban should only affect new applications so that already registered products are not affected.

The PMAG stressed that the local industry needed to be given adequate incentives to expand its operations. They emphasised that domestic drugmakers are moving towards achieving WHO qualification and GMP certification and that can be achieved with the needed support. Improving local manufacturing of therapeutics will proffer many benefits including public-health resilience in times like the ongoing pandemic, less strain on trade balances, improvement in the skilled labor pool, and an easing of foreign-exchange requirements.

The Deputy Minister for Health, Hon. Mahama Asei Seini shared the view that restriction should be done gradually and cautiously. He called for the set up of a technical committee to arbitrate and make recommendations on the proposed list of products for restriction.


What has been done

It may be recalled that the local pharmaceutical industry was given a big boost following the government’s decision to ban the importation of some 49 medicines which were reserved for local manufacturers. This was contained in a gazetted Executive Instrument 181 (E.I. 181), dated May 10, 2017, and signed by the then Minister of Health, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu.

Over-reliance on export

There are currently 39 pharmaceutical manufacturing units in Ghana, yet, the country remains largely dependent on imports. It is estimated that about 70% of the market is still supplied by foreign manufacturers.

Ghana’s evolving demographic and epidemiological profile will provide increased revenue earning opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, particularly those producing non-communicable disease treatments.

The bigger Picture

The action by the government is in compliance with the Africa Union’s (AU’s) Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa which aspires to strengthen Africa’s ability to produce high quality and affordable pharmaceuticals across all essential medicines to contribute to improving health outcomes and the realisation of direct and indirect economic benefits. This is particularly important since Ghana has signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The primary objective of the AfCFTA is to create a single, continent-wide market for goods and services, businesses and investments.