WHA deal breaks poor quality drugs deadlock

Globe showing Africa on bed of pillsThe World Health Assembly has ended a six month deadlock by agreeing to rotate chairmanship of a steering committee on poor quality medicines.

Creation of a mechanism for substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products was agreed at the 2012 WHA. However, its first meeting in Buenos Aires in November hit an immediate roadblock when participants were unable to agree on a chairman.

Participants failed to resolve their differences at the Buenos Aires session, and as such a formal meeting of the steering committee was unable to take place. This roadblock was cleared at the WHA last month when participants agreed to Brazil’s proposal to rotate the chairmanship.

Acceptance of rotation ends a dispute that threatened to derail the project. Nigeria wanted to take the lead on the SSFFC, Intellectual Property Watch reports, but faced opposition from a number of member states.

The Guardian Nigeria singles out India as leading the opposition. India reportedly blocked Nigeria because of fears the chairmanship would help the African country become self-sufficient in drug production and obtain World Health Organization-prequalified status.

“India feels strongly that Nigeria is now pursuing prequalification of her medicines and thinks that because of that, her own market will shrink, especially in Africa, because Nigeria is the number one buyer of Indian medicines in the African continent,” Nigerian regulatory head Paul Orhii said.

Nigeria imports $1bn worth of drugs from India each year, the paper reports, while its pharma industry is currently held back on the global stage by a lack of WHO-prequalified manufacturers.

Three Nigerian manufacturers are reportedly due to earn prequalified status by the end of 2013 though, and the regulator is pushing for more production to take place in the country. By taking greater control of drug supply, Nigeria hopes to cut the prevalence of counterfeits in the country.

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