Paidamoyo Chipunza in Victoria Falls
The African Union in conjunction with the World Health Organisation and NEPAD has began the process of setting up a regional medicines control authority, with Zimbabwe leading the taskforce.

This was said by head of health, nutrition and population in the AU’s Department of Social Services Dr Margaret Agama-Anyetei yesterday.

In an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing 67th Session of WHO’s regional committee meeting underway in Victoria Falls, Dr Agama-Anyetei said the regional body, known as Africa Medicines Agency, is meant to address proliferation of counterfeit, fake and substandard medicines on the continent, taking a leaf from the Zimbabwe experience which already has a functional regulatory authority.

“We are privileged as a continent to learn from the experience of Zimbabwe, in particular given the rich expertise that the chair will bring to the discussions that we are having,” she said.

“It is also an opportunity for weaker countries to learn from the stronger countries with defined regulatory systems and I am glad to state that there is buy-in by all member States that there is that urgency to protect patients from fake, substandard or counterfeit drugs.”

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) was accorded the status of NEPAD Regional Centre of Excellence (RCORE) for medicine registration and evaluation.

Dr Agama-Anyetei said the super-regulatory body would be formed by regulators from all member states and before it becomes operational, at least 15 member states must ratify the treaty for its establishment.

Dr Agama-Anyetei said the taskforce was currently working on the treaty and the agency was expected to start operating next year.

Although she could not immediately provide figures on the magnitude of fake, counterfeit and substandard drugs on the African continent, Dr Agama-Anyetei said it was a huge problem, which ministers of health saw fit to address as a matter of urgency.

She said failure to address the problem resulted in increased complications and deaths as patients failed to heal.

According to WHO, fake drugs medicines may contain an inadequate amount of active ingredients and are sometimes completely devoid of any active ingredients, which can cause major adverse effects and complications for the consumer.

If a drug contains too low a dose of active ingredient, not all bacteria, parasites or viruses are killed.

These pathogens can become resistant to the drug, allowing them to multiply and spread, leading to worsening of conditions and death.

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