SA has capacity to produce its own pharmaceutical products – President’s advisor

Special Advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Professor Olive Shisana, says South Africa faces challenges in medical products, vaccines and technologies in terms of supply chain management and procurement, despite having the capacity to produce therapeutic goods.

According to Shisana, the country has a well-developed pharmaceutical industry and access to a range of medical products and technologies.

“However, access to these is often limited to the private sector due to their high cost.”

This means the country faces issues with inadequate drug supply, and ineffective procurement processes, leading to drug shortages and inadequate care, despite having a good medicine regulatory authority, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

“The recent example of issuing a tender to a non-South African supplier instead of a local pharmaceutical state-owned company is an example of policy misalignment that is currently been addressed.

“It would be good for the Department of Trade and Industry to expedite the preferential procurement policy Bill by tabling it in parliament to strengthen the Department of Health’s ability to invoke preferential procurement provisions in law and purchase local products even if they come at a premium because, in the end, this would benefit the economy,” she explained.

The President’s advisor was on Thursday speaking during the opening session of the second Presidential Health Summit at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.

The meeting is a platform to review the implementation of the interventions agreed to during the 2018 summit and assess the performance of the health system against the Presidential Health Compact.

Shisana also noted health financing, which poses a significant challenge.

She believes that the country’s public health sector is underfunded with spending of R259.2 billion or 4.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to serve 85% of the population, while the private sector spends about the same amount for 15% of the population.

“This results in inadequate resources to provide quality care.”

As a potential solution to attaining equity for all citizens, she told delegates that the South African government has proposed the introduction of National Health Insurance (NHI).

The NHI aims to pool resources to provide universal access to quality healthcare services – free at the point of care for all South Africans, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

“The NHI Bill states that it will be funded through a combination of taxes and other revenue sources to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable healthcare services.

“As a health financing mechanism, it aims to correct the current inequities that remain pervasive so that South African policy and practice align with the aspirations of the Universal Health Coverage commitment within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” she explained.

Some of the issues that government is determined to address include service delivery, health information systems, leadership and governance, and the prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, mental health disorders, and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases.

“The country managed the COVID-19 pandemic very well, applying evidenced-based public health approaches to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.”

Shisana said it is for these reasons that a health compact is necessary between the state and key stakeholders in health to ensure collaboration and coordination in achieving better health outcomes for the population.

A health compact lays a foundation of a five-year roadmap for health systems strengthening reforms under the nine pillars towards accelerating Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Meanwhile, she said the primary goal of the second goal of the Presidential Health Summit is to find viable solutions that would enable the healthcare system to be adequately prepared for the implementation of the NHI.

“The State, as the main provider of healthcare services, cannot address all the health challenges on its own, and it needs the support of other stakeholders, including the labour, private sector, civil society organisations, users and communities,” the advisor said. –

Source: South African Government News Agency