African island states launch joint medicine procurement initiative 

By - World Healthcare Journal

Ministers of Health from seven small African island states have now signed an agreement to improve quality and access to drugs and vaccines for their populations.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, joined the ministers of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the virtual signing ceremony.

Dr Tedros congratulated the ministers for this important step forward and pledged continued support from WHO to help the countries in implementing the agreement 

At present, the high cost of drugs and medical supplies is one of the major challenges the small island states face due to their modest populations.

However, the “Pooled Procurement” agreement aims to take advantage of economies of scale and collective bargaining, and thus enable the islands to have more affordable access to higher-quality medicines.

Dr Moeti noted that the efforts made so far in establishing the programme had already increased the attractiveness of the pharmaceutical market within the islands.

“By creating a larger stream of demand, we can look forward to better access to quality and competitively-priced medicines,” says Dr Moeti.

“The high cost of medicines is one of the major barriers many countries in our region face in providing affordable health care of good standard. Pooling our resources is one way of overcoming this challenge. ”  

As the African region faces the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, it is essential that countries have systems in place for the timely procurement of essential supplies at a reasonable cost - and in sufficient quantities to address treatment needs.

For the small island states, the pooled procurement of drugs is also expected to improve medicine management systems, increase supplier performance and reduce procurement workload.

Plans to set up the joint procurement initiative began in Seychelles in 2017, during a meeting of health ministers from five Small Island Developing States, who expressed commitment to implement the programme, particularly for medicines for non-communicable diseases. Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar joined later.

“We must admit that it has been a long and tedious effort, and I commend the contributions of past and present Ministers and their teams for the dedication in creating an enabling environment for this mechanism to be launched,” says Dr Moeti.

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