African Union (A.U.) health ministers on Wednesday at a three-day summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, were presented with a plan for developing low-cost generic versions of drugs -- including treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis -- on the continent.
Many African countries currently import low-cost generic drugs from India and China, but both countries are subject to patent laws, which could restrict Africa's access to the medicines.
Mamadou Diallo, chief pharmacist in the A.U. commission's medical services directorate, said Africa has the resources and capacity to produce drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.
A World Health Organization report showed that 37 out of 46 African countries have pharmaceutical industries, Egypt has more than 30 drug manufacturing facilities, and Nigeria and South Africa currently manufacture medicines.
"We need to produce (medicines) in Africa," Diallo said, adding, "The main objective is to identify which kinds of medicines we are going to produce, essential drugs we need for Africa and who is going to produce these drugs."
Diallo also said that the decision would depend on health ministers attending the conference to move forward with the plan. Nthari Matsau, deputy director general in South Africa's health ministry, confirmed that the ministers would discuss the plan but said that he would not provide further details until after the meeting.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation