We've written before on how local drug approval agencies can be a bottleneck, delaying the registration of new, lifesaving drugs into markets - either because of inefficiency, corruption or both.
Now South Africa's drug approval body - the Medicines Control Council - has issued a mea culpa, telling the South African parliament that the agency's antiquated working practices have resulted in a massive backlog of drugs awaiting the official rubber stamp.
According to the agency's head, Mandisa Hela, it takes two to three years to register new clinical entities, 18-24 months to register generic medicines, 12-16 weeks to approve clinical trials and up to 15 months to approve fast-track applications.
In 2003, about 28% of applications were not dealt with, and by last year the figure had risen to 98%.
And these are for drugs that have already been approved by, for example, the US FDA.
Ms Hela should have told the parliament is that their own bizarre legislation is compounding the problem. According to Eustace Davie of the Free Market Foundation, new government rules envisage extending the work of the authority to cover all "products" that make "health-related' claims (bringing "sports" drinks and such items under its scrutiny), which will increase the number of applications at least tenfold if not a hundred-fold.
This piece of legislation will do little more than deny South Africans access to new products that are already widely available in other countries.