Comment in The Lancet on the Lomé Initiative

A new initiative to tackle the problem of substandard and falsified (SF) medical products in Africa has been adopted by seven countries on the continent. The Lomé Initiative, launched in Lomé, the capital of Togo, by heads of state from the Republic of the Congo, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Uganda, Ghana, and The Gambia is a binding agreement to criminalise the trafficking of SF medical products to ensure Africans have access to quality medicines.  

Professor Paul Newton
Professor Paul Newton

Speaking to The Lancet, Professor Paul Newton, who leads Medicine Quality at IDDO, said that the best way to tackle the menace of SF medical products is to ensure that medicines are affordable and accessible globally and are of good quality. He said: “The generic pharmaceutical industry is a key for ensuring this…Much more political will and action are needed to ensure that everybody has access to good quality medicines.”

Although the Lomé declaration by African leaders highlights the problem of falsified medicines that require criminalisation of the trade, Newton noted that substandard medicines need to be handled differently. He said: “Substandard medicines are due to errors within factories or degradation in the supply chain and need a regulatory approach and not criminalisation.”

While noting that progress has been made over the last 20 years, Newton argued that national governments and international organisations need to support national drug regulatory authorities to be able to do key work to ensure SF medical products are reduced. He said: “Hopefully the Lomé Declaration will influence the African governments to invest more in people and infrastructure to build better regulatory capacity.”

In addition to the ratification of the legal instruments by more African countries, Newton added that a lot still needs to be done to successfully tackle falsified and substandard medicines in Africa. “The mandate for a country to ensure that drugs are of good quality rests with the national government, but collaboration is needed between governments, between countries, regulatory authorities, ministries of health, purchasing organisations, and wholesalers, with better information sharing to ensure that the situation improves on a national, regional, and global basis”.

Read more about the Lomé Initiative in The Lancet’s World Report, Volume 395, ISSUE 10221, P324, February 1, 2020