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EALA to deliberate on pharmaceuticals bill

A NEW bill seeking to promote local pharmaceutical industry and enhance to access essential medicines across the region will soon be tabled in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

The Bill shall, among other things, promote and boost medicines and pharmaceuticals produced in the EAC region, regulate good manufacturing practices and quality standards and ensure the mutual recognition of registration of medicines.

The Assembly granted EALA Member, Ms Francine Rutazana from Rwanda constituency, leave to introduce the Bill titled ‘The East African Community Pharmaceuticals Bill, 2019’.

It seeks to promote preference for pharmaceuticals produced in the Community during the public procurement processes and for related matters.

As the House rose on Thursday, Ms Rutazana moved a motion under Article 49 (1) and 59(1) of the Treaty and Rule 26 of the Rules of Procedure.

The Bill on the other hand seeks to designate the national pharmaceutical authority in partner states that shall be responsible for the pharmaceutical matters provided for under the Act.

Ms Rutazana is of the view that reliable access to affordable and quality assured medicines in East Africa remains a huge challenge since most of the medicines in the Community are still paid for directly by citizens through out of pocket models.

The motion comes as the bloc, through different institutions and organizations, such as the East African Business Council (EABC) seeks to improve intra-EAC trade that lies at only 12 percent.

The idea is to reduce imports in the region; instead member states import from each other as lots of goods could be manufactured within.

It is in the same line, Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza (Rwanda) backed the bill, saying it was timely and that promotion of access to medicines would enable the EAC populace to be healthy.

She lauded the need for providing preferential treatment to local pharmaceuticals saying that currently, only 30 percent of the market demand was satisfied by the local production.

“We are losing out on jobs and employment opportunities and industrialization can be boosted by enhancing local production,” Ms Ndangiza said, calling for the enhancement of the regulatory framework to ensure its realization.

It is anticipated that one of the ways by which the Community could both improve availability of essential medicines and their quality, is to promote and support local production of essential medicines required by the Community.

The motion notes that discrepancies in the registration procedures for essential medicines still exist and remain a great challenge as currently provided for by the national health policies and regulations in the Partner States.

Despite the challenges, it is also stated that the Community has not established favourable policies for the local produces or in their adequate promotion to enable them to effectively compete with imported drugs.

Contributing to the motion, Mr Gai Deng (South Sudan) said ensuring access to medication was a key objective for sustainable development.

She remarked that despite huge advances in Universal Health Access, there were still major discrepancies with regards to regulation, and access.

“The motion is timely, given the need to strengthen the implementation of the roadmap by the EAC Secretariat,'' Mr Deng said, with Dr Woda Odok, Mr Abdikadir Aden and Dr Gabriel Alaak supporting the same.

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Author: DEUS NGOWI

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