MSH and WHO to Test Drug Access Indicators

International conference assembles leading pharmaceutical experts from over 15 countries

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (DECEMBER 26, 2000) — The World Health Organization (WHO) and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) will begin testing new drug access indicators in six developing countries early next year. Developed at a major international conference hosted by WHO and MSH from 11-13 December in Geneva, these indicators will measure five aspects of drug access - availability, geographic accessibility, affordability, acceptability/satisfaction, and quality of product and service. Testing will take place at national, health facility and household levels.

Funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference brought together more than 40 of the world's leading experts on pharmaceutical issues from over 15 countries, including Brazil, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, Thailand, Europe and the United States.

More than one-third of the world's population still lacks regular access to essential drugs. In developing countries, as many as 60% of deaths each year are attributable to common diseases that could have been treated by relatively inexpensive and widely-marketed drugs. This is despite recent significant progress in creating strategies designed to tackle problems such as high drug prices, poor drug distribution, stock outs, and improper use.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, Director of the Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy department of WHO commented, "While WHO and others are moving rapidly ahead to boost drug access in countries where health status is poorest, we still need to develop a means of measuring and monitoring access to drugs more accurately and identifying the main barriers to access. Only then will we able to work with those countries to select and target interventions most efficiently and effectively."

The indicators developed in this meeting provide a guide for measuring access to essential drugs and for identifying opportunities to improve access by implementing effective public/private sector drug management collaboration. MSH will begin testing the new indicators under a Gates Foundation/MSH drug management initiative that will foster such collaboration in developing countries. "Experience from industrialized countries suggests that collaboration between public and private sectors is the only realistic approach to making drugs and vaccines more accessible in developing countries," said James Rankin, Director of the MSH Drug Management Program.

The results of the country work will help MSH, WHO and other collaborating organizations to determine which indicators best assess the drug access situation of any given country and what the appropriate changes would be to improve access.

In addition to this funding, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting a variety of global initiatives that are working to develop new drugs and vaccines to treat and prevent disease in developing countries.