The thorny issue of marketing authorisations for veterinary medicines (MA) in the region was discussed in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) from 20 to 22 June 2023 at a regional workshop organised by the ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC), through the "Improving animal health and control of veterinary medicines" component of the Regional Support Project for Pastoralism in the Sahel, Phase 2, funded by the World Bank. Discussions among participants enabled RAHC to gather important pieces of advice and recommendations on how to speed up the operationalisation process of the existing regional system.
The proliferation of counterfeit and/or poor-quality medicines, the uncontrolled development of informal drug distribution networks and the growth of antibiotic resistance in the region have reached such a level that ECOWAS is obliged to speed up the efforts towards cleaning up the sector. Livestock farming is one of the pillars of the regional economy as animal population represents more than 75 million cattle and more than 300 million small ruminants and is a source of employment and incomes for more than 25 million people in West Africa.
ECOWAS is conscious of the challenge and is seeking commitment of Member States and all stakeholders to effectively achieve a centralised, single, and harmonised MA system, as most animal diseases are cross-border in nature.
In this perspective, resource persons and members of the Regional Veterinary Committee (RVC) from the 15 ECOWAS Member States (except Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali) plus Mauritania and Chad, specifically directors of veterinary services and presidents of veterinary associations, reviewed the issue and formulated practical solutions for improving the import and marketing of veterinary medicines in the region, including the management of "orphan" or "limited market" medicines.
At regional level, experts recommend, among other things, that ECOWAS (i) recruit staff as soon as possible to run the centralised system for marketing authorisation and management of veterinary medicines, (ii) adopt implementing texts for the regulations relating to veterinary pharmacy, (iii) disseminate and enforce relevant regulations and (iv) include, starting from 2024, a budget line for the operationalisation of the harmonised system for marketing authorisation and management of veterinary medicines. Considering the UEMOA countries experience in the sector, the ECOWAS Commission is also encouraged to strengthen collaborative work with the UEMOA Commission to learn from their experience in the management of veterinary medicines.