JAKARTA: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation agreed Thursday to help improve access to safe and affordable medication in Muslim countries, many of which remain the least developed in the world.
A declaration about medical regulations and issues was adopted by 32 of the 57-member countries present at a meeting in Jakarta.
Penny Lukito, chairwoman of Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM), said the goal was to eventually boost “welfare, prosperity and peace in OIC countries.”
Delegates also agreed to adopt an action plan to strengthen the capacity of regulatory agencies and to create working groups for specific issues, such as halal vaccines or counterfeit and substandard medication. The groups would meet every two years.
Lukito said halal vaccines were mentioned in the declaration as they were an area of concern among OIC member states.
“Halal vaccine as a medication is optional. It is different from food because of the emergency factor in medication. However, there are still many debatable aspects in regards to halal vaccines,” she said.
Mustafa Albani, head of the Palestinian delegation, said he learnt a lot from BPOM’s programs in preventing, detecting and responding to counterfeit and substandard drugs. Palestine lacks control over its borders, so cannot prevent fake drugs from entering its territory.
“Indonesia’s experience is very powerful. Maybe the opportunity to implement such programs would have higher outcomes if it is adopted in a small country like Palestine,” he said.
Febrian Ruddyard, from Indonesia’s foreign ministry, said around 70 percent of OIC countries lack a drug regulatory framework and monitoring agencies that report directly to the countries’ top executives. Those without a framework have to import medicines and vaccines through the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“Human security is important and through this meeting we touched upon issues that people in OIC countries have to deal with,” he said.
He also said OIC countries were an untapped market for Indonesia’s medicine and vaccine producers.
Indonesia, Iran, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Egypt are the seven OIC countries that can produce vaccines. Out of the seven Indonesia, through its state-owned vaccine producer Bio Farma, and Senegal are among those the WHO recognizes.
However, Senegal only produces one vaccine, specifically used to meet demands in Africa to prevent yellow fever, while Bio Farma produces 12 that are distributed in 141 countries including 49 OIC countries, according to the company’s chief Rahman Roestan.
“In addition to vaccines, we have the potential to produce herbal medicines because of our rich biodiversity and this is what other countries don’t have,” he told journalists.
The two-day meeting in Jakarta was also attended by the WHO, UNICEF, the Islamic Development Bank as well as vaccine and medicine manufacturers.