African island nations agree on consolidated medicines procurement

Posted on Dec 04, 2019

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Five small African island countries today agreed on a joint strategy to procure drugs and vaccines in an approach meant to improve quality and supply as well as cut costs and boost health services.

With a combined population of around 3 million, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) comprising Cabo Verde, Comoros, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe and Seychelles agreed on a Pooled Procurement Programme to take advantage of economies of scale and collective bargaining. The five Ministers of Health attending the 4–6 December SIDS meeting in Cabo Verde’s capital Praia also agreed to integrate Madagascar in their initiative. Guinea-Bissau also took part for the first time.    

“This agreement to pool efforts will make medicines and other life-saving pharmaceutical products more affordable and more readily available,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

“This is particularly important as island countries in Africa are at the forefront of the continent’s crisis of chronic diseases, which require many years of treatment and are placing a heavy burden on patients and health services,” she noted.

As the African region faces the double burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, it is essential that countries have systems in place for the timely procurement of supplies at a reasonable cost and in sufficient quantities to address treatment needs and efficiently complement important investments on health promotion. However due to their small populations individually, the SIDS face challenges in sourcing cost-competitive medicines, as their requirements are relatively small.

In addition to cost reduction through economies of scale, in case of medicines, pooled procurement allows participants to harmonize medicines management systems, improve quality and supplier performance and reduce procurement work load.  

The Pooled Procurement Programme will coordinate activities of the five countries, analyse and share information, and set up administrative, logistical, technical and financial arrangements to launch and implement the Programme.