"How do we ensure that the poor old lady in the village obtains all the essential medicines she needs at prices which are fair? How do we ensure that the quality of these medicines is good and that her hard-earned money is used most cost-effectively”, asked Dr Alex Dodoo at the launch of MeTA Ghana in November 2008.
The co-chair of MeTA Ghana went on to answer his own question: “In the main, this relies on the availability of credible information to all players so that we each watch over each other. MeTA therefore brings together several stakeholders to collect, analyse, disclose and apply data influencing medicine procurement, promotion and supply.”
Later, he encapsulated the alliance’s philosophy when he said, “In creating wealth through health in our beloved Ghana, it is clearly important that we ensure that all medicines in the country are of the best possible quality, are easily available from the registered premises, and prescribed and dispensed properly and are used rationally. This calls for an alliance of all those who use medicines and those whose lives are affected in any way by medicines.”
Deputy Health Minister Gladys N. Ashitey told the meeting that only one-third of Ghanaians had access to good quality medicine, which meant hardship and avoidable deaths.
Despite previous action, she said, sales and distribution of pharmaceutical products were still marred by bribery, theft, diversion, counterfeiting and profiteering. Many of these problems were rooted in unequal information in the relationships between distributors, prescribers, dispensers and consumers – which was why Ghana was happy to be a MeTA pilot country.
Also speaking at the launch, Dr Daniel Kertesz of WHO said achievement of the health section of the Millennium Development Goals was dependent on the provision of safe, affordable, effective medicines.
Paying for medicines could account for 50-90 per cent of out-of-pocket expenditure, he said - a proportion which could be catastrophic for families living in poverty or on the edge.
Civil society has an important part to play in MeTA programmes. At a MeTA African Skills Building Workshop in 2008 representatives of seven Ghanaian non-governmental organisations set three objectives, to:
- press for a 10 per cent reduction in prices of essential medicines by 2010
- advocate a 15 per cent increase in availability of essential medicines in rural communities by 2010
- strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations in dealing with essential medicines.
MeTA stakeholders from seven countries strengthen relationships and build a network for learning
Over 70 MeTA stakeholders participated in a workshop in Jordan
Representatives from the seven national councils and secretariats met to share experiences and challenges from working MeTA and discuss key issues