Under the chairmanship of Jean-Yves Ollivier, the Brazzaville Foundation organised a two-day meeting in Marrakesh on 12-14 June to discuss the fight against the traffic in substandard and falsified medicines.
The Foundation has been asked to support and help coordinate a new initiative being taken by five West African Heads of State (Niger, Togo, Ghana, Senegal and Congo Brazzaville) and the meeting looked at how to help take forward this initiative and ensure it has a decisive impact.
Among the 30 participants were the Senegalese and Congolese Ambassadors to Morocco; a Moroccan Foreign Ministry representative; a number of those working on the frontline in Africa including Niger’s Director of Pharmacies, and her Guinean and Moroccan colleagues; representatives of interested NGOs including the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Ichikovitz Family Foundation, the Africa Security Forum and the Dialogue of Civilisations Research Institute; and Jean-Louis Bruguière and Kabiné Komara from the Brazzaville Foundation’s Advisory Board.
Key points to emerge from the discussion were:
The traffic in falsified medicines is a complex problem and combatting it successfully required a wide range of actions and cooperation among many different actors. There were no quick and easy solutions. But the new initiative could make a real difference by:
- Introducing/harmonising legislation to criminalise the traffic in fake medicines and providing for tough criminal penalties and improved extradition arrangements. The signature and ratification of the Medicrime Convention, the international agreement whose purpose is to criminalise the traffic in fake medicines, has a key role, as does the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s model legislation designed to help enact the recommendations in the Medicrime Convention. The growing links to transnational crime and the financing of terrorism reinforced the urgency of such measures.
- Ensuring better enforcement by bringing together the efforts of key Ministries and departments (police, customs, interior/security, health, justice) under direct Presidential control. One suggestion was to set up special task forces for this purpose. Improved intelligence sharing and the need for training/capacity building were also emphasised.
It was also suggested the initiative by the five Heads of State could play a vital role as a model which others in ECOWAS and the AU can be invited to join. Furthermore, African countries being seen to take the lead in this way would increase the pressure on the international community to act.
The initiative should be supported by a communications strategy as well as strong national communications programmes to raise awareness and ensure consumers are properly informed.
Other Key Points
- The need for local/regional production of affordable, quality generics thereby reducing dependence on imports from India, China etc.
- The importance of research in parallel to establish i) the evidence base to help make the political case for action; and ii) to establish baselines to enable the outcomes of new initiatives to be measured.
- The need to find ways to tackle the problem at source in countries like India and China where much of the traffic currently originates, eg by engaging BRIC networks.
- The need to ensure that the international community gives the traffic in falsified medicines the same priority and resources as drug, human and arms trafficking/money laundering and that the same international instruments of cooperation are used to combat it.
- The idea of a formal declaration by Heads of State committing themselves not to accept any money from this illicit traffic to fund their electoral campaigns.