20.06.2005 General News

Access to medicines not a privilege -J.H. Mensah

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Accra, June 20, GNA - Mr Joseph Henry Mensah, Senior Minister, on Monday stressed that access to good quality medicines should not be seen as the privilege of only the rich and city dwellers but all Ghanaians. Speaking at the opening of a conference on "Enhancing Access to Medicines", Mr Mensah deplored the current situation in which 85 per cent of the pharmacy shops were found in towns in Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western Regions only.

The three-day conference is on: "Strategies for Enhancing Access to Medicine (SEAM) Programme" in Accra.

SEAM was established by the Management Services for Health (MSH) with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to improve access to essential medicines in developing countries.

It is a five year programme that aims to increase access by improving the systems through which drug were supplied as well as the quality of the drug products and the pharmaceutical services provided to consumers.

Mr Mensah said distribution of health facilities was also skewed in favour of the urban centres, thereby denying the majority of Ghanaians, especially those in rural areas access to affordable and quality medicines.

Government, he said, would not shy away from its responsibility to take bold and courageous decisions to reverse the trend and ensure that the rural areas also benefited from quality health service. However, he said the Government alone could not fulfil the mandate, adding that the best way for ensuring health for all was through effective collaboration with the private sector and other agencies. Mr Mensah lauded the innovative CAREshop concept, saying it was a good avenue to reach the deprived areas in the country.

The Ghana Social Marketing Foundation Enterprise Limited in collaboration with Management Sciences for Health (MSH) began the implementation of the CAREshop concept in April 2002 with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to harness the potential of Licensed Chemical Sellers (LCS) in underserved rural and peri-urban communities.

The CAREshop programme is implemented because LCSs were the first line providers of medicines and constituted the main mechanisms for addressing medicines access gaps.

Mr Mensah said such innovative approaches should help bridge the gap between the rural and urban access to quality medicines. Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, expressed concern about fake medicines and importation of expired drugs, which he feared could be deliberately introduced into the country to be experimented on the people.

He asked participants to come out with solutions that would help people to access medicines, bearing in mind the illiteracy of the majority of people, lack of trained pharmacists and good road networks to distribute medicines to the population in the remote areas. 20 June 05

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