The WHO African Region celebrates African Traditional Medicine Day every year on 31 August. This year’s theme is “Local Manufacturing of Traditional Medicine Products in the African Region,” highlighting the need to promote and enhance local manufacturing for better access to quality-assured medicines.
Scaling-up local manufacturing is key to contributing to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines for all. This will require stronger regulatory systems in countries to guard against low-quality medicines, and ensure locally manufactured traditional medicine products and raw plant materials meet international standards of quality, safety and efficacy. Such medicines would conform to WHO criteria for registration and selection for inclusion in national essential medicines lists.
The number of countries with national traditional medicine policies has risen steadily since 2000 and now totals 40 countries in the African Region. Seventeen countries are manufacturing traditional medicine products from locally-cultivated medicinal plants, while 14 allow marketing of some traditional medicine products to treat priority communicable and non-communicable diseases. Eight countries have included these products in their national essential medicines lists.
Local manufacturing of traditional medicine products for these diseases also requires a political, regulatory and economic environment which enables and enhances local manufacturing. Stronger public-private partnerships will boost investments in local manufacturing of medicinal products and help to protect against financial risk by improving economic and social development.
To support investment and technology transfer, WHO and its partners have assisted countries to assess the need for manufacturing traditional medicine products locally for some priority diseases. WHO is also helping to build management skills and capacity around quality control and registration of traditional medicine products. We have published a range of guidelines for countries to use in their own situations to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of these and other medical products.
I congratulate those countries which are already manufacturing traditional medicine products locally, and partners who are supporting this goal. But much more needs to be done to improve access to quality traditional medicine products.
As we celebrate African Traditional Medicine Day 2018, I call upon countries to increase public-private partnerships and investments to scale-up local manufacturing, while keeping high standards of quality, and systems which ensure the safety of medicinal products.
I urge for stronger collaboration between governments, national medicine regulatory authorities, manufacturers and traditional health practitioners to accelerate local manufacturing of traditional medicine products in the Region. This will contribute to quality health care, substantially improve access to quality essential medicines, and promote better health and well-being of Africa’s people.