The fight against NCDs continues…

On July 5, 2018, an Interactive Hearing took place as preparation for the third High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Representatives from pharmaceutical companies, the International Diabetes Federation, NCD Alliance (NCDA), etc were present to give their perspectives on the effectiveness of last year’s NCDA zero draft political declaration. This draft contained the United Nations resolutions towards the reduction of NCDs and the process by which they would be implemented. The main topics of this year’s discussion included scaling up the action, financing and promotion through multisectoral partnerships for the prevention and control of NCDs. Unfortunately, as Dr. Svetlana Axelrod, WHO Assistant Director-General for NCD and Mental Health, and Mr. James Chau, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Health, would agree, there is more to be done. The promises and strategies made last year have not had the expected impact. NCDs are still a major problem, especially in low- and middle-income countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. There is still an imbalance between the country’s population and the number of accessible qualified doctors. Additionally, there aren’t enough drugs available, nor are they affordable to the average citizen.

“Africa will always need more drugs…. In Nigeria, for example, there are 180 million people to 80 endocrinologists.” – Ms. Elizabeth Denyoh, President of the Diabetes Association in Ghana

The number of life-threatening NCD cases are on the rise in Africa though some can be treated with available drugs. Diabetes, for example, can be treated with insulin, but unfortunately many cannot afford it. The price of drugs continues to increase making it difficult for those in need to have access to them. Mr. Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, states that once the drugs leave the manufacturer, the price is out of their hands. Countries have their own additional taxes that they place on the drug, accumulating to the final price that is met by patients. To counteract this issue there needs to be a greater investment into NCDs. A recurring point made during the meeting was that there is a $7 return for every dollar invested in NCDs. Dr. Mukesh Kapila, CBE, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester, agreed with this point, but though the money can always be raised, the problem faced is knowing how to use it efficiently when it is presented. Dr. Mukesh thought that more energy should be focused in allocating the money towards the proper ventures before raising it.
Though there is a lot to be done pertaining to preventing and controlling NCDs, some recommendations such as putting taxes on sugar, salt and tobacco were offered at the meeting. Hopefully, these will be added to the zero draft on September 27th, 2018.