By Lahja Nashuuta
Windhoek - The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) will soon start buying pharmaceuticals and medical commodities on 40% discount, once all member states have endorsed the SADC Pooled Procurement Services.
The SADC Pooled Procurement Services (SPPS) is an outcome of SADC Ministers of Health and Ministers Responsible for HIV and AIDS meeting held in November 2017 in Polokwane, South Africa.
The SADC Secretariat spokesperson, Barbara Lopi, has described the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) as a significant step in the implementation of the SPPS, which is anticipated to reduce the price of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies by as much as 40%. SPPS would allow SADC member states to share pricing and supplier information to enable them to negotiate better prices for high-quality medicines from suppliers.
Lopi further said the implementation of the SPPS would enhance the capacities of member states to effectively prevent and treat diseases that are of major concern to public health in the region and will improve “sustainable availability and access to affordable, quality, safe efficacious essential medicines”.
With a regional population of over 340 million and an anticipated pharmaceutical market worth US$4.1 billion, annual price reduction savings amounting to hundreds of millions of US dollars can be achieved with successful pooled procurement, Lopi said.
Lopi said once implemented, the SPPS for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies would then enable countries to coordinate and promote collaboration among national medicines procurement agencies through regional cooperation as well as to facilitate the exchange of information and expertise among the member states in the area of pharmaceuticals, health commodities and medicines.
SPPS would also allow countries to coordinate the development and harmonisation of policies, guidelines and legislation for procurement and supply management of essential medicines and health commodities, including policies, guidelines and legislation related to the protection of IPR and implementation of the Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and Public Health and WTO 30 August 2003, Lopi revealed.
Other benefits include the facilitation of standardisation for the supply of quality medicines and health commodities as well as promotion of local and regional production of essential medicines.
Lopi said SPPS would contribute to regional integration as SADC member states will be putting efforts together to increase access to health and HIV and AIDS commodities.
She revealed that in the process of sharing information, member states would further strengthen regional co-operation and integration in the provision of health services and commodities.
In addition, the SPPS would contribute to one of the outcomes of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan that seeks to increase availability and access to quality health and HIV and AIDS services and commodities in the SADC region.
SADC member states with small populations would benefit from the economies of scale generated through joint procurement. She said the implementation of the SPPS is expected to increase access to essential, high-quality, safe, effective and affordable medical products and, therefore, it will contribute positively to universal health coverage
“We anticipate having increased availability of orphan drugs, which are otherwise hard to obtain due to the small quantities that individual member states require,” she said.
So far, only Tanzania has endorsed and signed the MoU on the Provision of the SPPS for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies.
The Namibian Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, has confirmed that since the SPPS proposal during the SADC Joint Meeting for the Health Ministers and those that responsible for HIV/AIDS in 2012, no MoU or any other agreement has been signed yet, and, in the case of Namibia, work is still at the technical level.
Haufiku, however, revealed that medical regulatory authorities in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana have entered into an agreement to harmonise medicines registration regimens.
“Pooling resources together has several advantages such as cost reduction due to the economies of scale, access and less likelihood of medicine stick outs,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation approximately 1.6 million Africans died of diseases that can be prevented or treated with timely access to appropriate and affordable medicines, vaccines and other health services due to medical shortages in the region.