January 17, 2007
Nigeria is preparing to introduce legislation allowing local pharmaceutical firms to produce generic versions of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV/AIDS and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for malaria treatment, a senior official said.
"We will try to have the legislation passed," said Ahmed Abdulkadir, a special adviser to Nigeria's president and chair of the taskforce to produce the drugs. "We've done all the administrative work, it's at the final stage. We will send it to the national assembly so it can be passed," Abdulkadir said on the sidelines of a malaria conference in Guangzhou, China. "We will dismantle all those barriers so that our local industries are able to produce all of these drugs, all ACTs and all ARVs."
The 14 local firms producing ARVs and eight producing ACTs cannot yet meet demand in Nigeria, where 2.5 million to 3 million people have HIV/AIDS. Most of the world's 1 million annual malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"The WHO insists that countries in the third world are given access to produce [life-saving drugs] and that is what we are trying to make sure we have," said Abdulkadir. "So that eventually anybody who talks about patency, to hell with it, the most important thing is to have the drugs produced to save lives first."
Local firms can produce 30 percent of the 109 million ACT doses needed annually to treat malaria in Nigeria, while the rest is manufactured by China, where artemisinin is derived from a compound extracted from a sweet wormwood herb, Artemisia annua. Cultivation of the shrub in Nigeria is proceeding, with Chinese experts lending advice. Procurement of drug production machinery is also planned, so Nigeria can meet domestic need and export to Central and West Africa, Abdulkadir said.