138th WHO EB - Addressing the global shortages of medicines, and the safety and accessibility of children’s medication. - Agenda Item 10.5
Speaker: Rohit Malpani
The availability of essential medicines on pharmacy shelves is fundamental for an effective primary health care system. When there are shortages and stock-outs of medicines, patients walk away empty handed, forced to buy medicines at higher prices from the private sector, or simply to go without the medicine they need. Reliable data on shortages and stock-outs are lacking and their impact on the health of individual patients and on broader public health is not well documented.
The major causes of shortages and stock-outs include production difficulties, such as issues with quality or an insufficient number of producers due to inadequate markets or intellectual property barriers, or decisions by companies to discontinue production. International and national procurement and supply chain challenges including weak forecasting, poor distribution and other inefficiencies in the supply chain are also causes.
MSF welcomes the Secretariat’s Report, but notes its scope should be broadened to include patented medicines whose shortages can be caused by monopolies, as well as all essential medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.. The Report should also be broadened to include the impact on patients and public health.
MSF agrees there should be a global database of critical medicines shortages, with an early warning mechanism, and a plan for rapid response including emergency stockpiles for at-risk medicines. Using reliable forecasting, the global demand for medicines should be coordinated with global production plans to ensure multiple suppliers can access relevant markets. Pharmaceutical companies should immediately report production issues or decisions affecting their ability or willingness to supply.
At the national level, patients and health workers should play a role in monitoring and reporting stock-outs, and increased attention should be given to addressing countries’ supply chain inefficiencies and last mile delivery. Governments should use all intellectual property flexibilities to take action that can alleviate shortages.