Successful Global Medicines Program Needs Sustainable Funding

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

Study in the Journal Of Public Health Policy Calls on Governments and Private Donors to Provide Funding

Contact: Palgrave Macmillan

For twelve years, the World Health Organization’s Prequalification Program (PQP) has helped to stem the tide of diseases such as HIV, TB, and malaria. But according to a group of former WHO directors and academics, this program is at risk because it is entirely reliant on just two international organizations for funding.

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

But an academic study to be published in the Journal of Public Health Policy on January 16, written by four experts in international public health, calls for more sustainable funding in the fight against global public health threats. The full article is available for free for a limited time on the Journal of Public Policy website.

Ms Ellen ‘t Hoen, author and former policy and advocacy director of Médecins sans Frontières says: “We have found that this program is effective, and saves money both directly and indirectly. Every dollar invested in the program saves $170 in public medicine procurement. But 80–90% of the organisation’s funding comes from just two organisations – UNITAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

She adds: “UNITAID and BMGF have long recognized the value and impact of WHO medicines prequalification. Without their support many people would not be alive today. But it is time for governments and other donors to step up. We need a consortium of public and private global health donors to create a sustainable funding model and ensure that the medicines we distribute in developing countries work.”

In the year 2000, only one in a thousand people living with HIV in Africa had access to treatment. Since then, the WHO PQP has prequalified over 200 products for treatment of HIV/AIDs. Now, of 8 million people globally receiving treatment for HIV, 6.5 million (81%) are receiving antiretrovirals of assured quality.

  • Initially the program focussed on providing low-cost generic versions of medicines to treat HIV, TB, and malaria, but it has evolved and expanded due to increasing demand, and now covers:
  • Essential medicines for reproductive health, diarrhoea, and neglected tropical diseases
  • Quality control laboratories
  • Active pharmaceutical ingredients
  • Review of clinical research used to prove that generic medicines are as good as the branded versions
  • Capacity of medicines regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers in developing countries of Africa and Asia.

Notes to editors

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About the Authors

Ellen F.M.‘t Hoen, LLM, now an independent consultant in medicines law and policy, was the first Executive Director of the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) after serving as director of policy and advocacy at the Médecins Sans Frontières’ (Doctors without Borders) Access to Essential Medicines Campaign. She is a regular consultant to the WHO Essential Medicines Program.

Hans V. Hogerzeil, MD, PhD, FRCP Edin, is Professor of Global Health at Groningen University (Netherlands) who, while at WHO, advised countries about developing national medicines programs before directing the WHO Essential Medicines program and chairing the Interagency Pharmaceutical Coordination Group of all major UN agencies, the Global Fund, the World Bank and UNITAID.

Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH, is President and CEO of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a non-profit global health organization and a former director of the Essential Medicines program at WHO. He is an Instructor in Medicine, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Physician, Division of Global Health Equity, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Chair of the Global Health Council.

Hiiti B. Sillo, MSPS, is the director general of the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and a pioneer of the African Medicines Registration Harmonization Initiative for the East African Community (EAC). He has worked with the WHO Prequalification of Medicines Program (WHO) as a temporary advisor on quality assessment.

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