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    Use of appropriate pharmaceuticals is central to disease treatment and prevention. However, access to affordable, safe, and quality-assured medicines is uneven in Southern Africa. A lack of standardised legislation for pharmaceutical usage and disparate treatments for diseases currently affect healthcare in the region, creating challenges for workers already under pressure. These issues contributed to the creation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Pharmaceutical Programme in June 2004, now located within the Social and Human Development and Special Programmes Directorate.

    The SADC Pharmaceutical Programme

    The programme aims to enhance the capacities of Member States to prevent and treat diseases of major concern to public health in the region, especially HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Shortly after the inception of the Pharmaceutical Programme, SADC established the Protocol on Health in August 2004, with specific provisions (Article 29) for improving access, affordability, and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals within the region.

    A Business Plan for Essential Medicines

    Following the initiation of the Pharmaceutical Programme and the establishment of the Protocol on Health, the SADC Pharmaceutical Business Plan (2007 - 2013) was published in 2007 with the overall goal of ensuring availability of essential medicines – including African Traditional Medicines – to reduce the disease burden in the region. The main objective of this business plan is to improve sustainable availability and access to affordable, quality, safe, efficacious essential medicines. In order to achieve these targets, SADC is pursuing the following strategies aligned with the Protocol on Health:

    • Harmonising standard treatment guidelines and essential medicine lists;
    • Rationalising and maximising the research and production capacity of local and regional pharmaceutical industry of generic essential medicines and African Traditional Medicines;
    • Strengthening regulatory capacity, supply, and distribution of basic pharmaceutical products through ensuring a fully functional regulatory authority with an adequate enforcement infrastructure;
    • Promoting joint procurement of therapeutically beneficial medicines of acceptable safety, proven efficacy, and quality to the people who need them most, at affordable prices;
    • Establishing a regional databank of traditional medicine, medicinal plants, and procedures in order to ensure their protection, in accordance with regimes and related intellectual property rights governing genetic resources, plant varieties and biotechnology;
    • Developing and retaining competent human resources for the pharmaceutical programme;
    • Developing mechanisms to respond to emergency pharmaceutical needs of the region; and
    • Facilitating the trade in pharmaceuticals within SADC.

    New Pharmaceuticals Projects in SADC

    The goal of improved access to pharmaceuticals moved forward in July 2011, when SADC initiated its project Registration Harmonisation in the SADC Region. This project intends to improve public health by achieving rapid and sustainable access to safe and affordable essential medicines. Find out more about this programme at the Southern African Generic Medicines Association website.

    Complementing this programme, the United Kingdom Department of International Development has funded the Southern African Regional Programme on Access to Medicines and Diagnostics since 2010:. This programme, based on a philosophy of collective action and innovation, strives to strengthen the SADC region’s capacity to supply essential medicines and diagnostics. For more information, visit the programme’s website Southern African Regional Programme on Access to Medicines and Diagnostics.

    The Southern African Regional Programme on Access to Medicines and Diagnostics is currently working with SADC to identify Member States’ ability to establish Regional Centres of Regulatory Excellence designed to build the regulatory capacity for the benefit of the entire region.

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