Major new study in U.S.A. shows Africans being ripped off, paying 20 to 30 times more for same medicines

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A major new study from the Center for Global Development in the United States has found that African countries are paying much more for essential, life-saving medicines. In what may constitute a major rip-off, some developing countries, including African countries, are paying 20 to 30 times as much as others for the same medicines.

Amanda Glassman, one of the authors of the study and the executive vice president at the Center for Global Development.

The study, which examined billions of dollars in spending on health products in developing countries in Asia and Africa, is one of the largest-ever studies of global health procurement to date.

“Developing countries are often paying far more for everyday drugs than they should be. Why do some poor countries pay 20 to 30 times as much as others for common medicines to relieve pain or treat hypertension? In large part, because of flawed drug buying practices and broken generic medicines markets,” said Amanda Glassman, one of the authors of the study and the executive vice president at the Center for Global Development.

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According to Kalipso Chalkidou, the director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development and an author of the study, “a robust market for generic drugs is a core part of an affordable health system. But in way too many countries, generic drug markets are broken and patients are paying the price”.

“You need enough competition to keep prices low and quality assurance that consumers trust, or essential medicines are going to be much more expensive than they should be.”

Kalipso Chalkidou, the director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development and an author of the study

The study found that although prices for basic generic medicines vary widely across African countries, they far exceed wealthy-country prices. 

Some purchasers in low- and middle-income countries pay as much as 20 to 30 times more than others for basic generic medicines to relieve pain or treat hypertension.

The study found that African countries are purchasing more expensive branded generic drugs rather than unbranded generics. 

In the poorest countries, unbranded generics, which are usually the least expensive option, are only 5 percent of the pharmaceutical market by volume. For comparison, in the US, unbranded quality-assured generics account for 85 percent of the market by volume.

Janeen Madan Keller
Assistant Director, Global Health and Senior Policy Analyst
Rachel Silverman
Policy Fellow

In addition, the Center for Global Development study found that in some African countries, the largest seller can account for upwards of 85% of all sales for some products, like contraceptives in Senegal or diabetes medicines in Zambia.

This, it concluded, directly affects the prices paid by consumers.

You can find the full report on the CGD website and a short summary of it here.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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