The African Medicine Agency’s Role in Advancing Healthcare

By Danélia Botes

April 22, 2024

Introduction

The African Medicines Agency (AMA) stands poised to transform healthcare across the continent. As an organ of the African Union, its vision encompasses the provision of affordable medical products, conforming to international quality, safety, and efficacy standards. With the AMA’s development, Africa is on the brink of a healthcare metamorphosis, promising enhanced access to vital medicines and medical products.

The Vision of the AMA

The AMA’s establishment is a strategic move to coordinate national and subregional medicines regulatory systems. Its objectives are clear: robust regulatory oversight, safety monitoring to curtail substandard and falsified medical products, and fostering international cooperation. By pooling expertise and optimising resources, the AMA aims to leverage Africa’s capacities to the fullest.

The Establishment and Challenges

Despite its conceptualisation in 2015, the AMA is not yet operational. The journey has been marred by hurdles such as governance, financial sustainability, and aligning regulatory standards. With only 20 out of 55 African countries ratifying the AMA treaty, the pace of harmonisation and strengthening of regulatory systems is slower than anticipated, posing risks to public health.

Findings on Medicine Registration Delays

The AMA plays a crucial role in addressing the lengthy medicine registration process, a significant barrier to healthcare access in Africa. This study highlights a worrying delay of 4 to 7 years from the initial regulatory submission in high-income countries to final approval in sub-Saharan Africa. This delay not only restricts access but also affects the relevance of medical products. Market dynamics could change during this period. For example, new originator medicines only launch in South Africa a minority of the time. Furthermore, a significant number of medicines authorised by an African NRA can take up to 5 years to become available to patients after registration. Access is also hindered by affordability. Trastuzumab, used for breast cancer care, was available in 10 of 19 facilities in 14 African nations, but only 5% of patients could afford it. Trastuzumab was not cost-effective in 11 African nations.

The Expected Benefits of African Medicines Agency Development

The AMA aims to enhance access to medical products, cut down on regulatory submission delays, and make essential medicines more affordable. It seeks to harmonise regulations by leveraging existing regional initiatives. This approach ensures that the entire continent reaps the benefits of streamlined processes.

Towards Operationalisation

For the AMA to succeed, political will, clear communication of its scope, sustainable financing, and equitable support for countries with varying regulatory capacities are crucial. It must avoid duplicating efforts with national and regional bodies and support innovation within the biopharmaceutical industry.

Conclusion

The AMA represents an ambitious step towards a unified regulatory voice for Africa. Its success hinges on overcoming challenges and harnessing the collective will of the nations. The AMA could drive major progress in healthcare access and product safety in Africa. This could save lives and promote a healthier future for all African citizens.

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