Quality Generic Drugs Save Lives; Dr. Quick and Colleagues Point to "Quiet Revolution" through WHO Program

Quality Generic Drugs Save Lives; Dr. Quick and Colleagues Point to "Quiet Revolution" through WHO Program

{Photo credit: Rui Pires.}Photo credit: Rui Pires.

Every year, billions of US dollars’ worth of medicines are purchased by or through international procurement agencies, NGOS–such as UNICEF, UNITAID, The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)–and governments for use in developing countries. The World Health Organization’s (WHO's) PreQualification of Medicines Programme (PQP) helps ensure that these medicines meet acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy.

The US government’s procurement of quality, generic drugs through the US President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has saved millions of lives and led to enormous cost savings.

According to a new research paper, published January 16 in Journal of Public Health Policy:

Savings for PEPFAR from buying generics has also been sizable. A report by PEPFAR, Supply Chain Management (SCMS), and USAID concluded: ‘1.1 billion in taxpayer money had been saved (over six years) by procuring generics rather than branded ARVS (antiretrovirals).’ Use of generics effectively doubled the number of patients who could be treated for the same funds.

The Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), funded by PEPFAR and established in 2005, supplies lifesaving medicines to HIV & AIDS programs around the world and is led by the Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM), a nonprofit organization established by MSH and John Snow, Inc. The 13 SCMS private sector, nongovernmental, and faith-based partners are hands-on and actively work to strengthen supply chains, enabling the scale-up of HIV & AIDS treatment in developing countries.

SCMS helps deliver an uninterrupted supply of high-quality, affordable products including: antiretroviral drugs; drugs to treat opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis; and drugs and supplies for palliative and home-based care, HIV rapid test kits, and laboratory equipment.

The report is written by four experts in international public health, including MSH President and CEO Dr. Jonathan Quick, former director of the Essential Medicines program at WHO, who call for more sustainable funding for the WHO PQP program.

"The PQP has been a fantastic success story, giving a stamp of approval to good quality generics and allowing the governments of developing countries to buy effective versions of essential drugs they can afford," blogs Sarah Boseley in The Guardian today.

The paper authors call the PQP a "quiet revolution" in global health -- and a program that should not have to worry about sustainable funding.

Most international organizations and many governments that procure and supply medicines depend on the WHO PQP. Yet very few choose to contribute financially to its work… [WHO PQP] is the strongest mechanism currently in place to create sustainable regulatory systems in low-and middle income countries. This alone justifies investment in WHO PQP.

The full article, "A quiet revolution in global public health: The World Health Organization’s Prequalification of Medicines Programme," is available for free for a limited time on the Journal of Public Health Policy website.

For more information, read the press release from the publisher Palgrave Macmillan and Sarah Boseley's blog post.