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27.04.2004 General News

Access to Medicine Workshop opens

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Accra, April 27, GNA - Despite efforts by the Government and its partners to improve access to health services, the burden of illness from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and other emerging diseases remained high, among the poorest segments of population, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Health Minister said on Tuesday.

He said: 'Efforts to improve access continue to face major challenges in a rapidly changing national and international policy environment" so there was the need to adopt effective strategies that required high level and coordinated action on health.

Speaking at a Dissemination Workshop on: "Access To Medicines Initiative" (ATMI) in Ghana, Dr Afriyie said ensuring equitable, secure and sustainable access to essential medicines, including vaccines and other health commodities, was a core element of the National Health Strategy for improving health outcomes for Ghana's population. Various stakeholders attended the workshop, aimed at discussing a report on the assessment of options for increasing access to medicines in Ghana, especially, access to newer molecular entities.

The workshop, sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) was a follow-up meeting, which sought to find out barriers to, and options for, improving access to affordable and quality medicines for Ghanaians.

Participants discussed the framework issues based on drug supply, importation or manufacture, sustainable financing and affordability, quality, safety and efficacy of essential medicines and ensuring reliable supply systems.

Dr Afriyie said Ghana with its development partners had already done much to strengthen the supply of medicines and services, and that had led to significant improvement in the overall health status, with life expectancy increasing to 57 years and infant mortality rate dropping to 56 per 1,000 births.

He said Ghana had also revised the National Drug Policy, imposition of taxes and tariffs on imported and domestic manufactured components and raw materials for essential medicines and drugs, adding that she was also in the process of adopting the intellectual property legislation to protect public health interest.

Dr Afriyie said he was optimistic that stakeholders would study the report and come up with solutions to address the medicines access gap from the strategic perspective.

Mrs Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, Deputy Programme Manager of the Ghana National Drugs Programme, and Co-ordinator of the workshop, mentioned key barriers to access medicines in Ghana as limited financial resources due to a weak drug pricing and exemption policy, absence of differential pricing policy and lack of co-operation among local manufacturers to undertake bulk procurement of raw materials.

She said limited human and technological capacity of local manufacturers and limited parallel importation due to contradictory policies and laws governing its permissibility as well as administrative obstacles and resources to effectively use it, were other obstacles to access medicines.

She said she was optimistic that the establishment of a National Pricing Policy would help improve financial access to medicines for the population.

Mrs Gyansa-Lutterodt stressed the need for a multi governmental action to combat fake substandard and illegal imports entering the country.

She stated that action would be required to improve quality assurance of medicines, including strengthened pharmaco-vigilance systems, post-marketing surveillance of pharmaceutical products and guidelines for marketing and safety monitoring of new chemical entities including antiretroviral, anti-malarias and drugs for treating multi-drug resistance tuberculosis.

Ms Sandra Baldwin of DFID, Ghana, challenged the stakeholders to "get the best deal" on medicines to ensue that quality drugs and other public health goods such as insecticide treated nets, were available and affordable when needed.