ACCRA, Ghana – A leading health expert says African countries with small to medium-sized economies pay far more money for less effective drugs.
Speaking to the BBC Newsday, the expert urged African countries to review the importation of drugs to their countries.
In countries such as Zambia, Senegal and Tunisia, everyday drugs like paracetamol can cost up to 30 times more than in the UK, Canada, and USA.
Kalipso Chalkidou from the Centre for Global Development said drug markets in poorer countries “just don’t work.”
She said “competition is broken” due to a “concentrated supply chain”.
Ms. Chalkidou, who is the director of global health policy at the organization, co-authored a report on drug procurement that concluded that small to middling economy countries buy a smaller range of medicines, leading to weaker competition, regulation and quality.
According to the report, richer countries, thanks to public money and strong processes for buying drugs, are able to procure cheaper medicines.
Poorer countries, however, tend to buy the most expensive medicines, rather than cheaper unbranded pharmaceuticals which make up 85% of the market in the UK and US.
She said, low- to middle-income countries “have little ability to negotiate prices down and quality assure products” and there are lots of mark-ups, often due to taxes and corruption.
She said less stringent regulation meant the quality of the drugs was also not as high.
“Without regulation, people perceive the products don’t work, so pay extra money for things they think will work and won’t work either,” Ms. Chalkidou added.
The report has recommended a greater global co-operation and the reforming of the World Health Organization policy as well as policy in targeted countries to improve procurement practices.