Comment on the Blog: Local pharma in Africa: going nowhere, slowly?

Submitted by DPP on Monday, October 20, 2014 - 16:58


Prof. Maureen Mackintosh responds to 'Local pharma in Africa: going nowhere, slowly?' 

Julius Mugwagwa, investigating spending on essential medicines in African contexts, wrote: 

“one consistent argument is that local production will contribute positively to health system targets, and is thus a good place to spend the ‘health dollars’.  There, however, seems to be contending views on how good local manufacturing will really be for public health. In fact, the evidence for this is sparse or at best inconclusive.”

Well, here is one piece of rather solid evidence that local producers can and do benefit public health. Many people in Africa buy medicines they need – when they can afford them – in cash. And access to essential medicines, though shops and health facilities, is generally worse in rural than in urban areas in Africa. This is certainly the case in Tanzania.

 Yet Tanzanian and OU researchers have recently shown that locally based pharmaceutical firms in Tanzania distribute their products equally in rural and in urban areas.  That is, you are just as likely to find a locally manufactured tablet, such as a basic antibiotic, in a rural shop or health facility as in an urban pharmacy or health facility.  However this is not true of imported medicines: you are much less likely to find these in rural areas than in town. 

It follows that locally based manufacturers are important for supporting rural access to medicines.  They appear to have better up-country distribution networks than the importers, perhaps because the local market is their “home turf” or core business.  A decline in local manufacture of medicines in Africa may well therefore reduce rural people’s access to essential medication.  Read more at