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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 120-121

Coronavirus disease-19 and access to medicines in Africa

1 Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ibadan, Ibadan; Global Health Focus, London, England, United Kingdom
2 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Ilorin, Ilorin; National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Abuja, Nigeria
3 Faculty of Pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria

Date of Submission02-May-2020
Date of Decision05-May-2020
Date of Acceptance06-May-2020
Date of Web Publication04-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Yusuff Adebayo Adebisi
Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ibadan, Ibadan
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijhas.IJHAS_79_20

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How to cite this article:
Adebisi YA, Jumoke AA, Carolyn OO. Coronavirus disease-19 and access to medicines in Africa. Int J Health Allied Sci 2020;9, Suppl S1:120-1

How to cite this URL:
Adebisi YA, Jumoke AA, Carolyn OO. Coronavirus disease-19 and access to medicines in Africa. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Dec 8];9, Suppl S1:120-1. Available from: https://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2020/9/5/120/285970


The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a pandemic. As of May 2 2020, there had been cases of the disease in more than 200 countries or territories and two international conveyances[1], and the African continent is not spared of the global health threats imposed by the pandemic.[2] In addition, the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Africa, as of April 28 2020, a total of 33,273 COVID-19 cases and 1467 deaths have been reported in 52 African countries.[3]

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on drugs and medicines security in Africa is the least priority of many African countries due to current preparedness efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, most of the African countries are dependent on developed countries or other African countries to meet their medicine needs.[4] Access to medicines is an essential component of a good healthcare system and should be given the much-needed attention. Worthy to note is that all countries are likely to feel the impact of the pandemic on drug security. However, the impact is likely to be felt significantly in countries that rely on foreign countries for medicines, for example, African countries.

The lockdown and travel ban due to COVID-19 will eventually affect drug circulation in most of the African countries as there is the possibility of stock out of medicines and drugs and inability to import excipients and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from other countries. With imports comprising >70% of drugs consumed in most African countries,[5] the COVID-19 pandemic will further necessitate the need for sustainable in-country drug production.

Most African countries are in their early stage of pharmaceutical development and most of them import drugs, raw materials, and equipment from countries outside the region, notably India and China.[6] Almost all local drug manufacturers in Africa purchase APIs from other manufacturers and formulate them into finished drugs. In addition, a majority of the countries in Africa are limited to direct purchasing of medicines and other finished drugs in bulk and repackaging them for local use. Only a few of the pharmaceutical companies in Sub-Saharan Africa engaged in significant research and development and manufacturing of API.[4]

At present, the majority of the countries where African countries import drugs and other raw materials from have all been significantly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Undoubtedly, this has great implications for drug security in Africa. With countries implementing a complete lockdown strategy to curb the spread of the virus, these measures will significantly impact the world's economy and negatively affect trade, local production, importation, and exportation of all commodities, including essential medicines and pharmaceuticals in all countries of the world. With much minimized international travels permitted, countries in the world are in a state of total dependence on their capacity to economically cater to the populace, which includes the healthcare system and access to medicines.

It is not in the interest of the continent's drug security to depend largely on imported drugs and equipment to meet the healthcare needs of the population. There is a need to scale up drug manufacturing in Africa as this will not just aid in meeting the healthcare needs of the populace but will aid in combating the preponderance of falsified, substandard and counterfeit pharmaceutical products, which pose a threat to public health.

The major challenges faced by local drug manufacturers in Africa have been unfavorable policies, the lack of infrastructure, basic amenities to promote research and development, an environment conducive enough for manufacturing, and high taxation.[7] These challenges would have been minimal or nonexistent if effective drug policies are formulated and implemented to boost the local pharmaceutical industries in each country. This pandemic should also prompt stakeholders to invest in herbal medicines research to complement and boost access to locally made medicines for the use of the population, which are much-needed in time like this.

Furthermore, access to medicines is central to achieving universal health coverage[8] across Africa. Already, many countries in Africa have been struggling to provide quality essential health services to their populace without financial burden. The frozen economy, financial cost of the loss of productivity, and the huge amount of resources dedicated to the pandemic may put a further long-term strain on the actualization of universal health coverage on the continent.

In conclusion, African countries stakeholders should see this period as a learning opportunity and ensure measures are put in place to ensure uninterrupted access to medicine during pandemics.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Worldometer; 2020. Available from: https://www.worldometers.info/corona virus/?utm_campaign=homeAdUOA?Si. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 1
Adebisi YA, Oke GI, Ademola PS, Chinemelum IG, Ogunkola IO, Lucero-Prisno III DE. SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing in Africa: Needs and challenges. Pan Afr Med J 2020;35:4.  Back to cited text no. 2
African CDC. Available from: https://africacdc.org/download/outb reak-brief-15-covid-19-pande mic-28-april-2020/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: https://africa.com/should-sub-saha ran-africa-make-its-own-drugs/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 4
Available from: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/ma gazine/december-2016-march-2017/dyin g-lack-medicines. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 5
Martial NP, Sieleunou I. An appeal for large scale production of antiretroviral drugs in Africa. Pan Afr Med J 2016;25:18.  Back to cited text no. 6
Available from: https://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/docu ments/s22195en/s22195en.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 7
Available from: https://www.who.int/health_financin g/universal_coverage_definition/en/. [Last accessed 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 8

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