” A study by the World Economic Forum shows that falsified medicines represent a market of USD200 billion per year”
Access to affordable and quality medicines is still not easy in many countries, especially in Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 10 per cent of medicines circulating in developing countries are falsified or substandard medicines, and that nearly half of them are located in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, a study by the World Economic Forum shows that falsified medicines represent a market of USD200 billion per year. Tackling the challenge of affordable and quality medicine worldwide – and especially in developing countries – was the focus of an interactive conference on ‘The safety of pharmaceuticals’, organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Le Cercle (the francophone association of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna), with the support of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in Vienna (GAF).
“The fight against the issue of fake medicines is a cross-cutting issue, which requires multi-sectoral, collective and concerted responses, as well as active multilateralism to ensure access to quality medicines for all,” said Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in her inaugural address.
Her message was also an opportunity to highlight the role of younger generations on this issue, in line with the welcoming remarks delivered by the President of Le Cercle, Matteo Mirolo. “This is where the OIF can have an added value,” remarked Ambassador Henri Monceau, Permanent Representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) to the United Nations in Geneva and Vienna.
“The OIF is a facilitator of multilateralism since it is an organization that brings together 88 states, including the observers, on the five continents, thus allowing for dialogue between regional groups, specialized international organizations, and regional organizations such as the African Union and the European Union.” In this regard, the vice-president of Le Cercle and moderator of the panel, Agnès Chanut, noted that “the last works of the OIF strongly inspired Le Cercle in the choice of the event’s theme.”
In this context, and to support policies on health, innovation, investment and trade, UNCTAD, WHO and OIF, together with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and UNIDO, have developed a project to strengthen partnerships to better respond to the reluctance of foreign investors to engage in developing countries, as well as to build up the capacity of the local private sector – in particular in terms of licensing agreements. “The goal of UNIDO’s commitment in this area is to contribute to the improvement of people’s lives. In addition to the indirect impact on poverty reduction, local pharmaceutical production has a direct effect on economic development,” said Fatou Haidara, Managing Director at UNIDO, which has been involved in this sector for years. The pharmaceutical sector is a priority in the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), an initiative led by UNIDO. Indeed, supporting local pharmaceutical production has been identified as an essential means of improving sanitary conditions and achieving the Decade’s road map for the inclusive and sustainable industrialization of Africa. “It is our strong conviction that strengthening local industries can play a vital role and that we can help countries meet the challenge of affordable and quality medicine by working together,” Haidara said. This was further highlighted by Annemarie Heuls, External Relations Officer at UNIDO, who pointed out that “more than two billion people in the world do not have access to the medicines they need.” Floriane Bacconnier of INTERPOL added that “the involvement of law enforcement, customs and health regulatory agencies in particular is crucial” to address the problem of pharmaceutical crime. Following the opening panel, interactive mini-conferences were led by various actors from the private sector (Sanofi, Österreichische Apothekerkammer, Valneva and the AksantiMed platform), international organizations (UNODC, Interpol, UNIDO) and the diplomatic community on a number of relevant topics, including: pharmacovigilance, the role of key stakeholders, pharmaceutical crime, the fight against falsified medicines and the new European directive. The event was organized with the support of the OIF, the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, the magazine Metropole as well as Illycaffè and Manner, in partnership with the Group of 77 at the United Nations.