Healing the Pharmaceutical Industry – Ethiopian Business Review

17 mins read

Lack of essential medication is a common recurrence facing patients. Mortality and morbidity caused by shortages of direly needed drugs during surgery and other critical points of treatment have become features of the medical industry. The common reason for the prevailing situation facing drugs is mostly tied with forex shortages and lack of sufficient local supply. Even though there are reports of sabotage in the industry, there has not been a consolidated effort to replace imported drugs and avoid the drug-induced chaos in the health sector. Recently, however, there are signs that that might be slowly changing. With the government’s high attention to the pharmaceuticals industry, there are new entrants in the sector coming with massive investments. With growing demand and an ever-expanding market for sector players, Ethiopians can benefit from newly revitalized efforts to increase the manufacturing of drugs within the country, writes EBR’s Eden Teshome.

Abenezer Kebede, a 35-year-old Accountant at a non-governmental organization, has had human papillomavirus (HPV) since age 27. Local injections and other treatments were ineffective and he was terrified of having surgery. Upon the advice of a close friend, he saw another doctor that prescribed imiquimod, a cream that helps get rid of the bumps. Several local pharmacies which he checked with didn’t have the product. Fortunately, after a five-week wait, he secured the medication after paying ETB7,000 to a pharmacist that imported it from Turkey.
“I have tried so many others before, nothing appears to be working,” Abenezer told EBR. “Even though it is good that this one is working, finding it is neither easy or cheap.”

In a nation where lack of medication has caused many to lose their lives, Abenezer’s experience is not as tragic. Mohammed Nuri (PhD) is Owner of Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing SC (EPHARM) and MedTech Ethiopia, as well as Shareholder of Julphar Ethiopia. Even he is a victim of shortages as his mother died because the medication she required after a surgical procedure could not be found. Resultantly, Mohammed became convinced that the country’s pharmaceutical supply had to be changed.

“I recall saying at the time that I needed to start a company that imports important drugs that were overlooked by others,” Mohammed told EBR. Twenty years ago, he envisioned becoming an important player in the drug import sphere. “This is why MedTech was the first firm in Ethiopia to import anti-HIV drugs. We currently provide 20 kinds of drugs at low prescription rates that are difficult to come by in Ethiopia; cancer and dialysis medications are among them,” said Mohammed.

The pharmaceutical industry is a knowledge- and technology-intensive industry playing an irreplaceable role in the health of populations. The need for medicines and medical devices in Ethiopia is mostly met through imports. As a result, guaranteeing timely access to quality and inexpensive medical items continues to be a challenge. One of the prime focuses of the Ethiopian government’s national growth agenda is the development of the local pharmaceutical sector as enunciated in the National Strategy and Plan of Action for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Development (NSPAPMD). The strategic plan aims to boost local manufacturing to provide access to quality-assured medications while also contributing to the economy.

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