Africa health MoU

C&I Issue 4, 2023

Read time: 1-2 mins

Shem Oirere

Medical and health sciences accounted for US$402m or 22.1% of South African government expenditure on R&D in 2020/21, according to a January 2023 report from the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators.

‘Since 2016, innovative multinational pharmaceutical companies invested close to US$163m in R&D activities in the country,’ said Ben Durham, Chief Director for Bio-innovation at the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), which sponsored the report. As many as 382 clinical trials have been sponsored and facilitated by pharmaceutical companies, Durham said, with at least 100,000 patients taking part in the trials.

Also in January, South Africa’s drive to expand treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) received a further boost. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) by DSI, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA), will pave the way for more cooperation in the search for new treatment options. It will also carry out preclinical and clinical activities and support the training of manpower in the South African pharmaceutical industry value chain. IPASA is a voluntary association of multinationals including Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, GSK and AstraZeneca.

The MoU coincided with a statement by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) that said in its monthly update for February 2023 ‘it has been a busy time for infectious diseases, both in South Africa and on the African continent’. Cases of measles, cholera and whooping cough (pertussis) have all been on the increase in South Africa and neighbouring countries.
‘Pertussis cases have been increasing since mid-2022 with the majority of cases and deaths occurring in children under five years of age,’ NICD said.

In April 2022, South Africa’s Minister for Health Joseph Phaahla unveiled the country’s National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, 2022 – 2027 to help accelerate the government’s ‘response toward the prevention and control of NCDs, risk factors and mental health conditions’.

NCDs account for the majority of the top 10 causes of mortality in South Africa, with diseases of the circulatory system increasing from 17.8% in 2015 to 18.4% in 2017, according to the Ministry of Health. However, the Ministry said certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles declined from 19.5% in 2015 to a low of 17.6% in 2017.