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The South African government plans to establish a competitive state pharmaceutical company in a bid to ‘de-commodify essential medicine supply to meet patient and national fiscal imperatives’.

This was one of the findings in the Presidential Health Summit report which was released to the public last week.

The report mandates that this state-owned company should be ‘innovative, competitive and highly skilled’ – with India provided as a country with a similar company and systems.

Government also plans to support innovative private sector initiatives ‘rooted in social responsibility ethos’ the report states.

While the introduction of a competitive state pharmaceutical company is seen as a medium-term possibility, the idea of a state-owned pharmaceutical company was mooted as far back as 2007.

According to Rapport, the government had previously instituted a private-public partnership with a company called Ketlaphela; however, this partnership is yet to bear fruit.

It added that Ketlaphela has been advertising for private sector partners since 2011 – with the latest tenders advertised in 2018.

NHI incoming

A state-owned pharmaceutical company is likely to form a key part of the government’s transition to the National Health Insurance (NHI) system.

In his state of his nation address at the start of February, president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the NHI is in its final stages and will soon be heading to parliament for submission.

He added that the presidency has established a ‘war room’ to address issues in the public health system.

“Realising the magnitude of the challenges in health care, we have established an NHI and quality improvement war room in the presidency consisting of various key departments to address the crisis in the public health system while preparing for the implementation of the NHI,” he said.

“By introducing the NHI together with a multi-pronged quality improvement programme for public health facilities, we are working towards a massive change in the health care experience of South Africans.”