Specialists from twenty-one countries in Africa have for the first time formed an African Association of Radiopharmacy (AfrAR) to strengthen their capacities and better meet national needs for the safe preparation and administration of radiopharmaceuticals used in diagnosing, treating and managing cancer and other diseases, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on 12 April.
The association, formed in March with the support of the IAEA, the Society of Radiopharmaceutical Sciences (SRS) and the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM), will contribute to the development of the radiopharmaceutical field in the region, which currently faces a number of challenges. These include a severe shortage of qualified radiopharmacists and insufficient health regulations to ensure the quality and safe production of radiopharmaceuticals suitable for administration to patients. Currently, about 70% of the qualified radiopharmacists in Africa work in only two countries, Egypt and South Africa.
The association will enhance awareness of radiopharmaceuticals as medical products among health professionals in Africa, and sensitise decision-makers on the importance of radiopharmacy services as well as the need for their regulation based on international standards. It will also facilitate regional cooperation and the exchange of ideas and knowledge, to enhance capacities among professionals in Africa, through formal scientific and professional platforms.
“This is a great milestone achieved by African member states in the area of radiopharmacy,” said Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Division for Africa in the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation. “AfrAR is founded on a drive to give patients in Africa access to the indispensable radiopharmaceuticals they need. Experts will be able to network and take stock of what needs to be done in terms of enhancing the quality of preparation and administration of radiopharmaceuticals in Africa.”
From 2018 to 2021, an IAEA technical cooperation project supported countries under the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) to improve radiopharmacy services, in particular in the area of human resource development through education and training activities. A master’s programme in radiopharmacy for French-speaking countries in Africa was launched and the first cohort of four radiopharmacists graduated last year, with five more expected to graduate this year. Furthermore, 35 senior African radiopharmacy professionals completed train-the-trainers courses, further enhancing regional capabilities.
“Inequity across the continent is problematic,” said Aruna Korde, Radiopharmaceuticals Scientist at the IAEA. “The launch of this new association now, will have the added value of helping to increase the availability of quality radiopharmaceutical products for patients across Africa.” The 21 countries that make up the association are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.