By Henry Etukumoh [This article is edited]
It is unfortunately a fact that 25% of the world’s disease cases occur in Africa. As someone who grew up in Nigeria, I’ve seen the serious implications of the health crisis. Patients usually travel long distances and wait days for often mediocre healthcare. This can cost a family’s entire budget. My mother had a ten-year battle with accessing care and still suffers from the effects of misdiagnosis and poorly administered procedures. Stories like these are common in Nigeria and other African countries. However, UK companies are helping to improve several different healthcare sectors in Africa, which is leading to a reduction in rates of morbidity and mortality. Let’s look at how UK companies are stepping in to make a difference:
Africa’s pharmaceutical industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, increasing from US$4.7 billion in 2003 to US$20.8 billion in 2013. It is projected to increase to US$40 billion to US$65 billion this 2020. The demand for over-the-counter medicines, medical devices and prescription medications is projected to grow between 6% and 11% over the next five years. In spite of the growth forecast, the industry faces several challenges that are capable of stifling its growth.
Fake medication: A recent report by the World Health Organisation showed that 10 in every 100 of the medications in circulation in Africa were substandard. It is estimated that fake anti-malarial medications, for example, contribute to about 116,000 additional deaths every year from malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This means that business men and women must be careful. They must not involve themselves in the sale of fake drugs. Even though it appears lucrative and can fetch quick money, we need to stop and ask ourselves some important questions. Is it right to take the lives of other fellow Nigerians because we need money for ourselves and our families. What is the difference between selling fake drugs and armed robbery in which innocent people are killed?
And second, our business community must ensure that only qualified medical personnel prescribe the medications they can use as well as the dosage. There is often the case of people going out there to buy drugs from the local patent medicine dealers. It is not always safe. Therefore, it is more advisable that you do not buy a medication for use that is not prescribed by competent medical personnel, especially a doctor in a recognized medical facility.
Shortage of specialists: The lack of experts to conduct clinical research and develop new medicines to tackle the growing disease burden is another problem. A contributory factor is the brain drain of specialists who continuously migrate to developed economies, leaving behind an industry that is overloaded with newly qualified professionals with little or no clinical research experience.
Most of us have relations who are living abroad, serving the interest of foreign countries. We can put pressure on them to come home and help develop the country of their birth. If every qualified doctor or nurse left the country in search of greener pasture abroad, our people will continue to die from lack of proper care when they become ill. So, we should begin to think of working together to bring back home those of our relations who, for whatever reason, decided to live abroad and work for foreign countries rather than their own suffering people.
Regulation: The regulation of Africa’s pharmaceutical marketplace and development of new medicines is far from standardized. This means the industry’s fragmented supply chain is rife with substandard drugs. UK pharmaceutical companies are expanding their operations to Africa, to help deal with some of the aforementioned problems and also combat a range of infectious and non-communicable diseases plaguing the continent. One such company is Morningside Pharmaceuticals Ltd. This is an award-winning innovator and manufacturer of high-quality generic and branded medicines, as well as healthcare products. It has set-up local manufacturing facilities in Africa to ensure the supply of cost-effective quality medicines to hospitals and pharmacies is improved and maintained.
Diagnostics Sector: Diagnostics services, either through pathology in laboratories, or imaging like scanning, ultrasound and radiology, play a vital role in spotting health problems and informing medical interventions. Early diagnosis can increase the chances of a positive outcome, helping to improve the lives of patients and save costs of further treatment. Diagnostics also play a vital role in patients’ ongoing care programs. Unfortunately access to reliable diagnostic testing is severely limited in the continent, and misdiagnosis is common.
Take two examples: in Nigeria, the accuracy of clinical diagnoses of typhoid fever, when compared with laboratory culture confirmation, was around 50%, and the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was overlooked in 24% of Kenyan children when a clinical syndromic approach was applied alone.
A UK business blazing the trail in diagnostics is Randox. A global leader within the in-vitro diagnostics industry, Randox Laboratories develops diagnostic solutions for hospitals, clinical, research and molecular labs, food testing, forensic toxicology, veterinary labs and life sciences. They have a laboratory in Africa and help doctors get accurate diagnoses for their patients.
Primary Healthcare: Access to quality healthcare in Africa is a major problem. A recent study by Gallop concluded that 57% of the population had poor or no access to patient-first, quality care. On the average, people in sub-Saharan Africa have the worst health in the world – with less than 1% of global health expenditure and only 3% of the world’s health workers.
Africa accounts for almost half the world’s deaths of children under five, has the highest maternal mortality rate, and bears a heavy toll from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. A UK company that aims to make a difference in the primary health care delivery system is Medics2You.
Medics2You gives patients control of their health by providing immediate access to world-class doctors and specialist, via a smart device, anytime, anywhere, to deliver quality patient-centred care with measurable outcomes. They are pioneering the delivery of a hybrid tele-health care service by setting up local tech-enabled hubs; an extension of their mobile platform, to provide consultations, investigations and pharmacy services.
African countries need better healthcare – and UK companies are in a good position to provide it. Using their expertise and advanced technology they are finding innovative solution for the continents the health crisis.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Henry Etukumoh is the founder of Medics2You, a ‘tech for good’ business that aims to transform the way African patients access cutting-edge primary care, save lives, and improve the life expectancy of millions. Having grown-up in Nigeria, Etukumoh has personally witnesses the serious implications of inadequate healthcare. Medics2You uses a hybrid tele-health platform to connect patients in Africa with world class doctors and specialists, deliver medication to patient’s doors, and provide referrals to local and international accredited specialists and hospitals.