Improving Access to Medicines for All

ACCRA, GHANA (JUNE 7, 2005) — As part of a global effort to enhance access to essential medicines for the neediest, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Ghana and in collaboration with the Rational Pharmaceutical Management Plus (RPM Plus) Program with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will host the Strategies for Enhancing Access to Medicines (SEAM) Conference 2005 on June 20-22 at the La Palm Royal Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Participants from countries around the world are expected to attend the conference, which will be opened by His Excellency, the President, John Agyekum Kufour.

Since 2000, MSH's SEAM Program, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has designed and implemented innovative public-private sector approaches to improve access to essential medicines. SEAM completed assessments of the pharmaceutical sector in six countries in order to identify gaps in access to medicines. To bridge these gaps, SEAM devised innovative approaches that were carried out in three of the six countries: El Salvador, Ghana, and Tanzania.

In Ghana, SEAM worked with the Catholic Drug Centre to implement a pooled procurement system that allowed faith-based health institutions to purchase medicines at significant savings to the institutions. SEAM also worked with a local nongovernmental organization, GSMF International, to start a franchise (a chain of shops) of licensed chemical sellers shops, now known as CAREshops. CAREshops aim to improve the delivery of medicine supply in underserved rural and periurban areas of Ghana.

"There are over 1,000 pharmacy outlets, both retail and wholesale, and about 8,000 chemical retail sellers. Some 75% of the retail pharmacies are located in Accra, Kumasi, and Secondi Takoradi, which together have less than 30% of the population. This indicates the very small coverage of the country by retail pharmacies and hence the heavy dependence on chemical sellers by our rural folk. In over 60% of the cases, rural chemical sellers are first-line providers of medicines. "

Felix D. Yellu, Chief Pharmacist, Ghana Ministry of Health

SEAM is also assisting Ghana's Pharmacy Council in strengthening its regulatory functions.

The SEAM 2005 Conference will report on five years of progress made in Ghana and other countries. It will discuss the strategies used and results and lessons learned, and will identify steps to further improve access to essential medicines.