FAO, IFAH form alliance to combat blackmarket in counterfeit veterinary drugs in Africa

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Federation for Animal Health (IFAH) are working to establish the first published pharmaceutical standards for medicines used in treating Animal African Trypanosomosis, commonly known as Nagana.

Transmitted by the bite of the tsetsefly and other blood-sucking insects, Nagana is a fatal animal disease capable of decimating the herds that African smallholders depend on for their livelihoods and which worldwide is estimated as causing economic losses of up to $4.5 billion each year.

Nagana affects cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, horses and donkeys — animals which are vital to the incomes and food security of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere.

According to an FAO statement, IFAH estimates that the value of the official market for veterinary drugs in Africa runs around $400 million a year.

The trade in sub-standard and non-registered drugs, the statement said is just as large and estimated to be worth $400 million in addition to legitimate, over-the-table sales.

“The use of substandard drugs to treat Nagana not only leaves farm animals inadequately protected from the disease, but also permits the evolution of tougher, drug-resistant strains when insufficient doses are used,” said FAO chief veterinary officer Juan Lubroth in a statement.

To tackle the problem, the FAO and IFAH say they have submitted an application to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to formally register the first pharmaceutical standards for the manufacture and proper use of two drugs that kill the parasites that cause the disease.

By April 2012, two laboratories in sub-Saharan Africa will have been selected to carry out tests for quality control and verification of the two standard drugs.

These standards, called monographs in the pharmaceutical industry, both say “will define the acceptable physiochemical make-up of the drugs, the proper dosages of their active ingredients, and the allowable levels of impurities they can contain”.

The standards will provide a basis for evaluating the quality of animal medicines and serve as a measure against which national authorities can test for regulatory compliance, FAO-IFAH added.

By Ekow Quandzie

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