Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are currently the best medicines available to treat uncomplicated malaria but unfortunately many patients lack access to them. To better understand the pharmaceuticals market in Zambia, a collaboration between IMS Health* and the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority of Zambia has built up a user-friendly database on the types of products available on the Zambian market.
These data provide an understanding of how the market has changed since ACTs became widely available, what market share different classes of medicines have in Zambia, and what happens when policy changes and new drugs become available. These data can also be used to regulate the quality of medicines entering the country. This is the first systematic and regular collection and dissemination of pharmaceutical market sizing information for an African ministry of health.
1. What information has been collected in Zambia to date and how is it being used?
We have been able to collect data on the brand, manufacturer and quantity of most of the medicinal products coming into the country since 2008. This has enabled us to ensure that only those products authorized by the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority actually enter. We can also corroborate the import data with the medicines available in our pharmacies and health-care facilities and follow up if they do not correspond. Using these data we have been able to respond to donors wishing to track how their funds have been spent. At the click of a button we can find out which products have been imported, when and in what quantities.
2. Why is this important?
We need to be sure that the medicines coming into Zambia are of high quality and not counterfeit or substandard. Tackling this problem is important not only to ensure the safety and appropriate treatment of patients now, but also to prevent the emergence of drug resistance in the future. Having access to these data has been like turning a light on in a dark room. Imagine that the room is the country with a door that allows medicines to come in. We can now see much more clearly what medicines are coming through the door and therefore what needs to be done to improve their transit to their final destination – the patients. The next step will be to use these data to better manage the supply chain of medicinal products.
Mrs Esnet Mwape is the Director-General of the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority, Zambia.
*IMS Health is a leading information provider for the health-care industry, covering markets in more than 100 countries.