Pharmaceutical companies in Ghana have been asked to improve on their capacity in order to produce most of the items under the Essential Drug List, to reduce the national dependence on imported drugs.
Vice President Alhaji Mahama, who made the request in Accra on Friday, said importation of drugs was a drain on the country's foreign exchange resources.
“One way out of this is the possibility of producing raw materials locally to feed the pharmaceutical industry in order to reduce the cost of production and enhance the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector,” he said.
Vice President Mahama was speaking at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in Ghana on the theme: 50 Years of Pharmaceutical Industry in Ghana-The Way Forward.
He said: “I have however been made to understand that you are producing only 30 per cent of drugs on the Ghana Essential Drug List.”
Vice President Mahama said the quality of locally manufactured drugs compared favourably with the imported ones in terms of international standards of safety, efficacy and quality.
“It is also gratifying to note that your products are patronised by countries in the West African Sub-Region.”
Vice President Mahama said Government had removed the Value Added Tax (VAT) and import duties on active pharmaceutical raw materials.
“This year, all pharmaceutical raw materials and packaging materials are zero-rated to ensure that locally produced pharmaceutical products compete favourably with their imported counterparts.”
There is tax exemption on 66 active pharmaceutical ingredients. VAT and import duties on raw materials and packaging materials used for the manufacturing of drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria have also been removed.
He called for collaboration between members of the Association and herbalists to facilitate healthcare delivery.
Mr. Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiatives, who chaired the function, said the industrial sector had a significant contribution to make to the attainment of the national objective of becoming a middle-income country with a per capita income of 1,000 dollars by 2015.
He said the importation of pharmaceutical products continued to be on the increase, saying between 2001 and 2005 imports had increased from 32.1 million dollars to 59.5 million dollars.
“These figures do not include the import of ethyl and alcohol sugar,” he said.
Mr Kyeremanten said: “We have the potential to drastically reduce our import bills on drugs. Our research institutes have carried out extensive research on the medicinal potentials of our plants and herbs but these unfortunately are yet to be commercially exploited.”
Dr. Michael Agyekum Addo, President of the Association appealed to the Government to give incentives to pharmaceutical companies such as soft loans and very encouraging terms of payments to be able to meet the drug demands of the country.
He said members who invested in the manufacturing of Artesunate /Amodiaquine, lost heavily when the anti-malarial drugs were withdrawn, hence the need for government to compensate the entrepreneurs.
Mr Samuel Owusu-Agyei Deputy Minister of Health said the pharmaceutical companies were producing at less capacity saying 900 out of the 3,000 drugs registered by the Food and Drugs Board locally.
The President of the Accra-based West Africa Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Mr Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa said the Sub-Regional body would ensure quality marketing and regulatory standards of pharmaceutical products.
Five Companies including Major and Co the first pharmaceutical company in Ghana that started operation in 1957 were awarded certificates by the Vice President.