medicines

Well-functioning national regulatory authorities (NRAs) ensure access to safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable medical products. However, the benefits of their work are often unseen and difficult to attribute, thereby making NRAs undervalued and under-resourced, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This paper offers three key arguments NRAs and other stakeholders can use to advocate for greater investment in regulatory systems strengthening—medical products regulation effectively safeguards public health; effective regulation improves health system’s efficiency by increasing access to affordable medical products, contributing to universal health coverage; and robust regulation strengthens local pharmaceutical manufacturing and bolsters pharmaceutical trade. NRAs’ critical role in health systems is indisputable, yet they need to better promote their value to receive the requisite resources to function effectively.

Many low-income and middle-income countries lack the capacity to effectively and efficiently regulate medical products in their countries. To support countries in strengthening their capacity, WHO has developed the Global Benchmarking Tool (GBT) as the global standard for objectively assessing regulatory capacity for medicines and vaccines. The GBT is a game changer because it is the first globally accepted tool for assessing and strengthening national regulatory authorities. The inclusion of an institutional development plan in the GBT methodology provides context-specific actionable steps countries can take to advance their system’s functionality and maturity. The GBT facilitates coordination and improves the effectiveness of regulatory strengthening efforts. The tool also facilitates regulatory reliance and harmonisation, which helps to improve timely access to quality-assured medicines, and creates incentives for trade, particularly in countries and regions with a strong pharmaceutical manufacturing base. 

Unpublished

Bedaquiline (BDQ) has been recommended by the World Health Organization for the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) since 2013, but experience using the drug in high-burden, lower-income countries is limited and case studies are needed. Swaziland started using BDQ under national TB programme conditions in 2015 in four pilot sites. As of 1 December 2016, 93 patients had been initiated on BDQ, i.e., 19% of MDR-TB patients treated in the country. Swaziland has developed a systematic and efficient model for BDQ introduction in collaboration with several partners. This model is also being used to introduce other innovations and can serve as an example for other countries facing similar challenges.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality of a select group of medicines sold in accredited drug dispensing outlets (ADDOs) and pharmacies in different regions of Tanzania as part of an in-depth cross-sectional assessment of community access to medicines and community use of medicines. We collected 242 samples of amoxicillin trihydrate, artemether-lumefantrine (ALu), co-trimoxazole, ergometrine maleate, paracetamol, and quinine from selected ADDOs and pharmacies in Mbeya, Morogoro, Singida, and Tanga regions. The analysis included physical examination and testing with validated analytical techniques. The physical examination of samples revealed no defects in the solid and oral liquid dosage forms, but unusual discoloration in an injectable solution, ergometrine maleate. Over 90% of the medicines sold in ADDOs and pharmacies met quality standards. Policy makers need to reconsider ergometrine maleate’s place on the list of medicines that ADDOs are allowed to dispense, by either substituting a more temperature-stable therapeutically equivalent product or requiring those sites to have refrigerators, which is not a feasible option for rural Tanzania.

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