By Joyce Mukucha
HARARE – Noticing the significant intellectual property barriers that prevent people living with HIV(PLHIV) in Zimbabwe from accessing HIV related treatment services, the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV(ZNNP+) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other relevant organisations is implimenting the Intellectual Property Amplified (HIPA) program aimed at challenging those barriers.
The program is aimed at ensuring that there is local manufacture of medicines in the country which has been identified as critical in the drastic reduction in drug prices and therefore enhancing access to millions of PLHIV in low and middle income countries.
Speaking during the National Dialogue on the Local Manufacture of Medicines in Zimbabwe on the 6th of April in Harare, ZNNP+ Executive Director Tatenda Makoni highlighted the need to change the narrative and develop a roadmap for the revitalisation for the local manufacture of essential medicines particularly the anti-retroviral drugs.
“It is of paramount importance to ascertain relevant the steps to be followed by the local manufacturers and establish potential collaboration with other stakeholders in the local manufacturing of medicines.
“The dialogue is a plea from PLHIV so we aim to challenge pharmaceuticals to manufacture HIV related medicines to address the prevailing barriers that hinder PLHIV from accessing quality, newer, and better medicines,” he said.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro who was the guest of honour said Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce its own anti-retro viral drugs and stressed the need for collective efforts to ensure that PLHIV to enjoy sustainable access to better medicines.
Dr Mangwiro said government was committed and ready to support the incapacitated pharmaceutical industry and ensure that pharmaceuticals get everything required to put the idea into practicality.
“It is important to note that the HIV Intellectual Property Amplified Programme came at a time when the government of Zimbabwe has made commitment to take advantage of intellectual property rights as well as human capital in order to spur economic growth and guarantee the health of it’s people.
“The government has put in place several policies aimed at enhancing the growth of innovation especially in tertiary institutions. As we strive to improve health service delivery in the country, the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Retired Brigadier Dr Guvheya Nyikadzino Chiwenga supports the local manufacture of medicines.
“This was further reinforced by the Minister of Finance by allocating resources towards biometical engineering, biomedical sciences and pharmaceutical production. This is a clear endeavor reflecting the new thrust of the Government of Zimbabwe to move towards effective import substitution. A budget of ZWL 1,24 billion was allocated to the programme. The budget is 2% of the total Budget to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and this commitment will be translated to a clear and robust implimentation plan,” Dr Mangwiro said.
President of the President Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Emmanuel Mujuru said about 1,4 million people in Zimbabwe were living with HIV as he reiterated the need to establish medicine exports as a major foundational pillar of the industry and manufacture products that are in demand in SADC and African Continent.
“There is need to upgrade the manufacturing of quality medicines to international standards. Also there is need for adequate allocation of forex to pharmaceutical manufacturers. Direct measures should be put in place to enhance competitiveness for example introduce tax incentives and duty and VAT rebates for capital goods, exports,” said Mujuru.
He also indicated the need to remove policy incoherencies and ensure alignment of public health policies with industrial development policies.
National AIDS Council (NAC) Chief Executive Officer Dr Bernard Madzima said NAC was aware of other efforts to support local manufacturing and will be participating in those national processes to reduce duplication of ideas.
“Whilst the current support to medicines pipeline through domestic resources is limited, NAC endeavors to utilize available resources to support local manufacturing. This will include partnering with local manufacturers to produce HIV related medicines which they already have the capacity to manufacture,” he said.
Dr Madzima added that NAC also intend to expand the already existing partnerships with universities to support research and development as well as quality assurance in manufacturing.
The HIPA program is also aimed at ascertaining the level of knowledge on sustainable advocacy campaign on the full utilisation of the TRIPS flexibilities among ZNNP+ members and other significant stakeholders in Zimbabwe.