Transparency and accountability
In many developing countries there is little publicly available information on the price, quality, availability and promotion of medicines. The three information blockages are: that the information doesn’t exist; that it exists, but not in a publicly accessible form, or it is publicly available, but no-one knows and so no-one uses it.
Lack of openness and accountability contribute to:
- excessive price mark-ups;
- poor forecasting of essential supplies, leading to shortages;
- large but infrequent orders that put a burden on local infrastructure, leading to the trashing of products that are beyond their sell-by date;
- increased risk of theft or spoilage through inefficient storage and supply, and
- poor quality counterfeit drugs.
MeTA is founded on the idea that information improves decision-making, and therefore efficiency, all along the medicine supply chain. Openness - disclosure of information - is at the heart of its work.
It sounds like a simple prescription, but efficiency can mean lower prices and greater consistency in the quality of medicines: in other words, medicines that are more cost-effective and clinically effective. Two examples:
- In Zambia, theft was cut by providing information on the delivery of medicines in rural health centres to local health committees made up of members of the local community, and
- In Chile, procurement prices dropped when drug prices were posted on the Internet.
Sound information enables public policymakers and authorities to respond effectively to high prices, the presence of counterfeit drugs or the theft of quality medicines. It helps companies to operate effectively in the market, and consumers and civil society to challenge poor practice or to be able to shop around.
MeTA’s national stakeholder forums will encourage the generation, release, discussion and analysis of information on the quality, availability, pricing and promotion of medicines. Crucially they will encourage the use of this information. Working with media will be important, to ensure that information is disseminated in a reader-friendly form. Civil society organisations will be key in helping poor and disadvantaged people make use of information.
This note provides advice and guidance to existing and prospective MeTA countries – and specifically their national Secretariats and multi-stakeholder groups or Councils – as they take steps towards establishing the practice of routine disclosure of key medicines data.
An independent evaluation of the pilot phase was carried out between December 2009 and February 2010. This is the Summary Report.
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