The Global Fund is scheduled to launch in September- Affordable Medicines For Malaria (AMFm), a monitored price regime which will see Artemisin Combined Therapy (ACT) drugs from six foreign companies in Nigeria, sell at between N60 and N70 a dose. The beneficiary companies are Guilin (China), Ipca (India), Ajanta (India), Cipla (India), Novartis (France) and Sanofi -Aventis (Switzerland). ACTs are now universally the first line drugs for the treatment of malaria.
The Global Fund is the worldwide institution established in 2002 to fight tuberculosis, HIV and malaria which are endemic in the developing world. The present initiative is in tandem with the global attention that malaria has received since Ban Ki-Moon assumed office as secretary-general of the United Nations. For instance, on September 25, 2008 in New York, world leaders had gathered at the Millennium Development Goals Malaria Summit to endorse the Global Malaria Action Plan aimed at committing nearly N360 billion in the effort to reduce malaria deaths to near zero by 2015.
Leaders at the event included Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General; Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Ray Chambers, UN Special Envoy for Malaria; Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Peter Chernin, President and COO of News Corporation and Chairman of Malaria No More; Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.
Earlier, on December 4, 2007 in Abuja, the World Bank had launched Phase II of its Booster Programme for malaria control in Africa, to cover 2008 to 2011. At the event, the World Bank had committed to making available N130.13billion to expand programmes to combat malaria on the continent.
In the second phase, the World Bank had made a strategic priority of working in two of the hardest-hit countries in Africa, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, both of which, according to reports, account for 30 to 40 percent of all malaria deaths worldwide.
We commend this concern for malaria in Africa. It is a clear indication that in an increasingly globalised and inter-dependent world, what happens in one part of the world affects the rest of the world. Malaria is a disease endemic in the tropical regions of the world, of which Nigeria and much of Africa form a major part.
However, it is important that in carrying out a campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of malaria, local pharmaceutical industries are not made to suffer. The present global campaign, if not revised, may lead to the collapse of Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry. The average cost for each treatment, using current prices of most ACTs produced or marketed in the country, is N200. But if the Global Fund sponsored drugs are going to sell for N60 or N70, obviously, local firms are going to lose out.
To ensure that the ACTs’ prices do not exceed N70, The Global Fund is asking Nigerian stakeholders in the private sector to register with it as first line buyers on strict conditions. But indigenous manufacturing firms like May & Baker, Emzor, and MOPSON’s, which will participate as first line buyers will end up as mere sales agents of foreign companies.
It is our view that indigenous pharmaceutical companies should be included in this new initiative not only because the local sector, currently going through dire straits, may survive such economic maginalisation, but also because the brand of ACTs produced by many of them has been proven to be quite effective in the treatment of malaria in the country.
The local firms cannot compete in a market with anti-malarials subsidised by 95 percent by the Fund. We urge the Federal Government to intervene in order to redress the situation.