Affordable medicine: WHO wants bold steps

Aiming to make medicines and treatment affordable for everyone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday asked the South East Asian nations to take bold action ensuring citizens access to safe efficacious, quality and affordable medical products.

The WHO also wants more emphasis to be given on leveraging collective strengths through greater inter-country cooperation.

The global body says across the South-East Asia Region, an estimated 65 million people are pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket health-care payments, with the cost of medicines being one of the main causes.

“Overcoming barriers and ensuring all people everywhere can access essential medicines is one of WHO South-East Asia’s priority areas of work,” said Poonam Singh Khetrapal, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

“It is vital to achieve universal health coverage, and with it the Sustainable Development Goal of health and well-being for all,” Khetrapal said.

She was speaking at the 70th Regional Committee Session of WHO South East Asia Region being held in Male.

“Poor-quality or unsafe medicines likewise affects peoples’ ability to access the treatment they need, when they need it, while weak supply chains and inefficient procurement provide similar barriers,” she said.

Stating that significant progress has been made in recent years, including the creation of the South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN) in 2016, which pools the Region’s regulatory resources to enhance the safety and quality of medicines, Khetrapal called for the need to build on that progress and strengthen regional cooperation in a range of areas to further address this critical issue.

She also outlined few key areas where countries can work together, and with WHO, to drive substantial gains in access to medicines across the Region– scaling up of inter country and regional collaboration on public procurement and pricing and fully operationalize the SEARN.

Other key areas include countries to improve antimicrobial stewardship by applying the Access, watch and Reserve system.

The conference which ends on September 10 also saw the global health body calling for immediate measures against vector-borne diseases in South East Asia region.

It called for an urgent need for more trained entomologists in the region, followed by collaboration of cross-border programmes on vector control.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), countries also need to establish and strengthen effective entomological surveillance systems.

The surveillance systems can help study local mosquito species, their susceptibility to insecticides, monitor insecticide resistance, as well as vector and human behaviours that may allow mosquitoes to avoid interventions and thereby maintain disease transmission.

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