UN: Governments urged to invest in medical research & development

Lovemore Lubinda

The United Nations’ general assembly is meeting in New York this week, and one of the major topics to be discussed is finding common ground and collective action to address the crisis of drug-resistant infections, or antimicrobial resistance (AMR), following the commissioning of a report on the matter by the UN Secretary General, governments have been urged to invest in medical research and development (R&D).

In a recent report entitled ‘Lives on the edge’ that has been produced by the Doctors Without Borders that analyses the failure of the current R&D system, and outlines new ways of developing tools to better address the medical needs of people, at affordable prices, world governments have been urged to be proactive in the development of desperately-needed new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics at affordable prices.

“People in poor and wealthy countries are now finding that the medicines they need either don’t exist or are priced so high that they can’t afford them, and governments need to solve these problems,” says an official of Doctors Without Borders in the report.

The report goes on to say pharmaceutical corporations woefully under-invest in research for diseases that aren’t lucrative, while governments have failed to ensure that taxpayer-funded research addresses priority health needs.

Doctors Without Borders is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation working to bring emergency medical care to people caught in conflict, crises, and disasters in more than 65 countries world over.

At the moment Zimbabwe’s pharmaceutical sector is said to be producing only eight percent of the country’s drugs, a clear indication that the industry is in crisis, a situation that threatens the country’s citizens. World over, health is a sensitive subject and it is therefore important for countries like Zimbabwe to be able to produce the medicines it requires for its people.

As the country’s economy is on the freefall since the turn of the millennium, the pharmaceutical has also not been spared. This has left Zimbabwe at the precarious position of banking on imports and donations through donor-funded programmes. This is not sustainable, and may result in drugs shortages in an event that the donors have decided to withdraw their support.

Most drug manufacturers in the country have closed shop because of the macro-economic environment, and the few that are left face stiff competition from cheap imports.

Some of the companies that are either facing viability challenges or have closed shop include CAPS Holdings, MedTech Holdings, Wallace Laboratories, Lancaster Industries, and Reckitt and Benkister.

Meanwhile, through the Zimbabwe National Drug Policy, the government says is committed to promote and encourage the most cost effective local production of safe, effective, and high quality drugs so as to achieve optimal self-reliance within the context of the national sustainable development goals.