FEATURE | Regulation is key to unlocking the promise of online pharmacies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Written By

  • Yuen Wai Hung
  • Dunni Lawal
  • Remi Adeseun
  • Mara Hansen Staples
  • Pharm. Elijah Mohammed

Online pharmacy models are emerging in health-tech ecosystems across Africa. Crucially, these innovations are demonstrating the potential to improve access to medicines and product delivery to consumers. Though generally regulation is lagging across the continent, progress is underway in a set of key countries.


To better understand the state of online pharmacy regulations in key health-technology ecosystems, we hosted a joint discussion with pharmacy regulators in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya last year. We also conducted landscaping to analyse and compare approaches to online pharmacy regulation in South Africa and Rwanda. Collectively, these efforts helped identified key areas for regulators and governments to act, to ensure that effective and positive regulatory environments are created for online pharmacy innovations as they emerge. They are:


  • Adopt a holistic approach towards health tech innovation governance including systems adjacent to online pharmacies such as ePrescription and telemedicine. This should be based on a validated dynamic list of authorised prescribers and a comprehensive database of uniquely identified producers, providers, payers and patients/users.


  • Prioritise technical assistance to build the capacity of regulators and provide tools required for effective contemporary regulation of online pharmacies.


  • Improve key stakeholder engagement in regulatory development through early, systematic, and continuous consultation.


  • Deploy resources to build digital infrastructure for seamless online pharmacy operations and extend financial assistance to the supply chain actors, especially retailers.


  • Formalise a multi-country working group for regulators so that sharing approaches, lessons learned, and best practices can improve regulatory efficiency and effectiveness as we enter a new era of digitally enabled care.


Click here to read our full opinion piece on Nigeria Health Watch.


The piece was co-authored with Pharm. Elijah Mohammed, the Registrar of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.



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