The 17th biennial International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities (ICDRA) has kicked off today in Cape Town to address the hurdles that are preventing access to quality medical products, especially in developing countries.

The conference is taking place from 29th November to 2nd December 2016 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (ICC). This year’s theme is ‘Patients are waiting: how regulators collectively make a difference’.

ICDRA provides drug regulatory authorities of World Health Organisation (WHO) member states with a forum to meet and discuss ways to strengthen collaboration. ICDRA meetings have been instrumental in guiding regulatory policies and priorities for action in national and international regulation of medicines, vaccines, biomedicines and herbals.

The conference is organised by the South African government, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) and the WHO, and provides a platform for medical regulators from around the world to exchange information and collaborative approaches on issues of common concern.

“The MCC is honoured to be selected by the WHO to host delegates, from each of the WHO member states, to participate on such a prestigious platform. We believe the event will provide an excellent forum from which harmonised collaboration can be fostered,” said the MCC.

“In addition, the event will allow us to pursue active discussion on innovative approaches pertaining to the opportunities and challenges faced by drug regulators around the world,” continued the MCC.

ICDRA 2016 will facilitate focused discussion pertaining to African medicines regulatory harmonisation practices; strengthening of regulatory systems; regulatory preparedness around public health emergencies; collaboration and harmonisation of medical device regulation; good regulatory practices; and global convergence.

ICDRA 2016 will also focus on the need for greater international collaboration between National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) to improve their efficiency and expand patient access to safe and effective diagnostics, medicines, vaccines and medical devices in all countries.

According to WHO Director for Essential Medicines and Health Products, Dr Suzanne Hill, 90% of the regulatory assistance to countries is focused on sub-Saharan Africa.

“Africa has made good progress recently to improve regulatory performance and ensure that patients can access safe and effective essential health products. But we need to keep up the momentum, and governments must invest more resources into this area,” said Dr Hill.

“Strengthening the role of regulatory authorities will bring us closer to realising universal health coverage and universal access,” continued Dr Hill.

WHO estimates that at least three out of 10 NRAs in the world are not fit for purpose, largely due to limited resources and low recognition of their crucial role in their countries’ health systems.

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