Peru has a record of working to improve transparency, including participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), provision of online information about government spending; online Health Ministry information about medicine purchases; and civil society’s promotion of participatory budgets and development of monitoring and vigilance systems.

In addition, medicine availability and access have long been a concern for both the government and civil society.

Transparency and medicines came together in MeTA Peru, which provides the opportunity for everyone involved, including those in the private sector, to work together to develop better ways of getting affordable, quality medicines to even the most marginalised people.

The initiative was launched at a two-day meeting in November 2008 attended by more than 120 participants from government, the pharmaceutical industry and civil society. Workshops and discussions focussed on six areas: drug financing, regulation, public sector procurement, transparency and management, rational use of medicines and generics.

Health Minister Dr Oscar Ugarte set the tone by pointing out that transparency and accountability were articulated in the country’s national anti-corruption plan.

British Ambassador Catherine Nettleton said that “if transparency is the first principle of MeTA, then the second is a multi-stakeholder approach that brings together all the parties that can make a difference to increasing access to medicines. This means drug companies, distributors and retailers. It means pharmacists and other professionals. It means governments, regulators and technical agencies. And, crucially, it means civil society.

“Working together can itself help improve data collection and quality – it can open up more sources and support better scrutiny.

“But most importantly, it also builds an opportunity for accountability. Shared information is essential to knowing how well we are doing in achieving our aim.”

Participants at the launch were in favour of extending the debate about transparency and accountability, and placed much emphasis on the regulation of medicines, as this was part of good governance. They wanted MeTA to act in five strategic areas: legislation, research, organisational development, capacity-building and transparency, and the design and implementation of policies that would benefit the poor.

The ultimate goal, they agreed, was access to medicines for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

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