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Mar 6, 2024   |   Blog Post

Increasing access to quality medicines through public-private collaboration

Medical supplies for a PA Program in Malawi (Photo Credit: Paul Joseph Brown)

By Martin Mahombisa

Private Sector Engagement Specialist

Lire cet article en français.

Access to quality health products is essential for achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Ensuring both access and quality is critical to building high-performing public health supply chains because supply chains that get products to people wherever and whenever they need them are irrelevant if those products are fake or substandard.

Poor-quality medication is a problem globally, but Africa has the highest prevalence of poor-quality medicines among low- and middle-income countries. In fact, between 2013 and 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that of all fake medicines reported to them, 42% were being sold in Africa. This has led to significant consequences for the region, for example 267,000 deaths per year are linked to substandard antimalarial medicines, and nearly 200,000 deaths per year are linked to substandard antibiotics in Africa.

The increased need for regulation of health products is the primary reason the African Union established the African Medicines Agency in 2019. But in order for regulation to be successful, it must promote economic growth and not just focus on punitive actions for compliance.  At VillageReach we are working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ensure compliance with pharmaceutical regulations, which can also help local businesses grow.

Certification for quality medicines

PA student taking inventory at Nkhotakota Hospital, Malawi.

In DRC, VillageReach has worked since 2021 to increase local private pharmaceutical distributor participation in delivering quality medicines to public hospitals and health facilities. To achieve this, we have to been working to increase collaboration between certified private distributors and the government (both at the national and the provincial levels).

“The local pharmaceutical distribution sector is essential to achieving UHC. [These] companies play an important role in the supply, storage and distribution of health care products to pharmacies as well as health care facilities across the country,” said Christian NTUMBA, General Manager, of the Congolese Pharmaceutical Regulation Authority (ACOREP).

Presently, 195 private distributors in DRC deliver medicines and health products throughout the country, but not all of them are compliant with WHO guidelines designed to ensure only quality medicines are sold in member countries. Therefore, building relationships between the DRC government and private distributors requires first identifying which companies meet the necessary standards.

Building a directory

Over 18 months, VillageReach worked with the government and the private sector to develop a Directory of DRC Certified Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Distributors. This Directory is the first ever to be developed in Africa and is a simple but powerful innovation.  According to the African Pharmaceutical Distributors Association (APDA), the Directory provides a solid template for other African countries that want to grow local private-sector distributors.

To develop the Directory, we partnered with QUAMED, who provided technical guidance on the Directory content and best practices. We worked with ACOREP to include the six private distributors in DRC that were already certified by ACOREP and compliant with the WHO’s Good Distribution Practices. The Directory also includes three certified pharmaceutical manufacturers, out of 30 in DRC, that are compliant with the WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

ACOREP’s NTUMBA explained how the Directory provides benefits for various stakeholders. The government benefits from this tool because it helps guarantee the availability of quality health products for the population, a critical factor in achieving UHC (key public health objective of the Congolese government). Technical and funding partners in DRC benefit from having a guide to work with certified sources of health products, and private sector manufacturers and distributors listed in the directory can showcase themselves in health product markets in DRC and across the continent.

A beneficial cycle for health care and businesses growth

By promoting the Directory across the DRC, government, donors, and other technical partners can more easily work with certified companies across the country. As these certified companies benefit from more business opportunities, we see the local pharmaceutical industry growing. This growth will no doubt create an emulation effect, motivating more private manufacturers and distributors in DRC to invest in complying with WHO standards.

The Congolese Business Federation (FEC), whose subgroups include pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors among other health-related industries, is already actively promoting the use of the Directory through its offices across DRC.

“We hope that this directory will motivate other companies to improve their practices to meet the standard required to be certified. This dynamic will improve the quality of the products made available to the population,” said John NKONO, General Secretary, FEC.

Learn more about the Directory and how your country could adopt this innovative approach.

Read the Directory in French now: https://bit.ly/3TsCMom and contact VillageReach’s Martin Mahombisa, martin.mahombisa@villagereach.org and ACOREP’s Donatien KABAMB, wartz05@yahoo.fr to learn more.



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