Given the significance of India in providing medicines to Africa, it is necessary to expand collaboration between African partners and Indian healthcare providers in areas including capacity building, the establishment of hospitals, and investment in telemedicine.
The tragic deaths of 70 children from acute kidney damage drawn attention to the tiny African nation of Gambia. And in October, the World Health Organization (WHO) linked this series of newborn fatalities in the Gambia to four allegedly tainted cough and cold syrups made in India, specifically Maiden Pharmaceuticals, a company with all its headquarters in the Indian state of Haryana in the north.
The Indian government has formed a committee of four specialists to make recommendations for future action while studying and investigating the reports of adverse occurrences, their causal links, and other pertinent data supplied by the WHO.
The precise cause of the fatalities had not yet been determined, and tests on the Indian pills had confirmed them to be safe, according to a statement released by the Gambia's Medicines Control Agency. The Gambia's health regulatory body also asserted that "viruses" and "bacteria," which may have spread as a result of heavy rain and widespread flooding, were to blame for 95% of fatalities.
The samples tested at a government lab "were found not to have been contaminated," according to a letter Dr. VG Somani, the Drugs Controller General of India.
Several articles with headlines like "India swiftly turning into the global pharmacy of counterfeit medicines" began to appear as this was happening, blaming the Indian pharmaceutical industry even before it was claimed that the drugs produced there were genuinely contaminated or responsible for the child's death. The story now takes a fascinating turn as a result of this revelation by the Gambian authorities. The WHO's eagerness to blame Indian-made medications for the catastrophe raises the issue of why.
In some African nations, numerous networks are selling fake Indian drugs. Some of these might occasionally have been created by unlicensed Indian manufacturers, who would create medications based on the prices paid for the drugs. But that only happens sometimes and informally. Contrary to popular assumption, rival companies from other nations manufacture and distribute fake drugs in African areas where Indian pharmaceuticals enjoy a good reputation.
For more than a decade, India has defended itself against these baseless accusations. India was accused of exporting phoney generic anti-malarial medications to Nigeria in 2009. Following an investigation, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria found that the fake pharmaceuticals with the "Created in India" label were actually made in China.Given the quantity of the seized cargo, it was also determined that there is a very good chance that many other African nations are employing comparable falsely labelled counterfeit medications. Undoubtedly, many multinational businesses want to demonise India and depict its pharmaceuticals as inferior in order to gain more African markets.
Africa's main source of reasonably priced generic medications is probably India. India provides 45% of all generic medicines to Africa. According to several recent surveys, Africa receives 20% of India's $17 billion in pharmaceutical exports. Over the past ten years, India has more than doubled its pharmaceutical exports to Africa and the rest of the world, which are expected to total $24.5 billion in 2021.
Indian medications are increasingly trusted throughout the world, and PM Modi recently emphasised that India might be regarded as the "pharmacy of the world." Now it is clear that these negative findings on the efficacy and safety of Indian medicines are an attempt to harm the industry's reputation.
India's improvements in infrastructure, technology, accessibility, and affordability in the healthcare sector allow it to now satisfy the needs of Africa's health systems. The fact that over 50,000 Africans visit India annually on a medical visa is evidence of the tremendous demand for India's affordable, high-quality healthcare. Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Zambia, and Mozambique are a few of the top nations that send patients to India.
When it comes to the continent of Africa's economic growth and development, health care spending is essential. As of March 31, 2021, the Indian Exim Bank had provided many African countries with loan lines totaling $1.6 billion for health projects. India has also announced a $10 million commitment to the India-Africa Health Fund. India, behind the United Kingdom and the United States, was the third-largest investor in Africa's healthcare sector from 2010 to 2019 with a 19% share. In addition to hospitals and healthcare service providers from India, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in India also effectively serve the African market.
Hospital construction is a specialty of Indian firms like Larsen & Toubro, Shapoorji Pallonji, and others. They have prior experience building opulent hospitals in GCC countries. Additionally, they are skilled at building hospitals in India and other developing nations on a tight budget. Hospital organisations like Apollo, Fortis, and others who have established the required skills, knowledge, processes, and vision have made it possible for India to have a sustainable healthcare ecosystem. By combining India's hospital construction and management expertise, a targeted, win-win plan for Africa will be delivered, ultimately enhancing India's connections with Africa as a whole.
The healthcare industry has traditionally been a point of cooperation between India and Africa. The varied and long-standing partnership between India and Africa found its optimum expression during the challenging times of the COVID pandemic as both sides worked in a tremendous spirit of collaboration and cooperation. India's contribution of vital drugs and the Covid vaccines created there during the epidemic further demonstrates its comparative advantage as the world's pharmacy.
India's humanitarian approach to Africa received widespread praise during the time when Western countries hoarded vaccines. African nations received 24.4 million COVID-19 vaccines produced in India between January and March 2021. 8.4 million vaccines were sent via commercial agreements to South Africa, Mauritius, Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria.
As part of the COVAX initiative, 26 African countries got an additional approximately 15 million vaccines in addition to the one million vaccines donated to 17 African countries.
Given the importance of India in supplying medications to Africa, it is imperative to expand collaboration between African partners and Indian healthcare providers in areas including capacity building, the establishment of hospitals, and investment in telemedicine. India must therefore be proactive in order to prevent a deterioration of this strong relationship. India should take this tragedy as a lesson, and whomever caused the catastrophe ought to be caught and dealt with fairly.