Posted on 29 June 2009

Over 30 pharmaceutical representatives attended a one day consultative meeting on 23 June 2009 to find out more about MeTA and to share their own perspectives. MeTA organised the meeting to provide the private sector with an opportunity to hear about MeTA’s efforts so far, and to identify – from the perspective of private sector enterprises – the major challenges facing pharmaceutical companies working in emerging markets. It also provided an opportunity to help shape efforts to find a sustainable and lasting solution to the problem of access to medicines in developing countries.

Representatives were from all sections of the industry – international and local, research-based and generics and included companies such as Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Niche Generics Ltd, Abbott Laboratories Ltd, Kampala Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, and the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.

Chaired by Andrew Jack of the Financial Times, the meeting provoked engaging discussion about the interests of pharmaceutical companies in emerging markets, and the barriers that exist for poor people to access the medicines they need. The barriers mentioned included poverty, infrastructure, governance, and inefficient systems.

Callum Miller, of the Growth and Investment Group at the UK Department for International Development said he was heartened by the presence of so many pharmaceutical company representatives. He noted that the history of non-cooperation between partners – the government, private sector and civil society - and that now through MeTA they are working towards a common goal and to the benefit of citizens in the seven pilot countries participating in MeTA.

Brian Elliott, Executive Director of MeTA said at the start of the day, “We would like the pharmaceutical industry to express support for the MeTA principles. We would like to engage with you in a public manner.” He went on to explain what is meant by a level playing field.

What do we mean by a level playing field?

-          Poor patients can afford essential medicines

-          Fake and sub-standard drugs are eliminated

-          Stockouts and theft in the public sector and leakages from the public to the private sector controlled

-          High government taxation reduced or eliminated

-          Importers, distributors, wholesaler and retailer margins curtailed

-          Registration and regulatory procedures streamlined

-          Medicines rationally prescribed

-          Ethical codes and promotion standards observed

-          IP rights protected as described under TRIPS – country’s legitimate need for processes to obtain fair access to essential medicines recognised.

At international level MeTA asks the pharmaceutical industry to support the MeTA principles of transparency and multi- stakeholder dialogue. At pilot country level it asks the industry to engage with MeTA by beginning the process of progressive disclosure of data and information concerning price, quality, availability and promotion. It also asks industry to engage with the other stakeholders through the MeTA Councils in the discussions and debates arising from these disclosures aimed at eliminating barriers to access to essential medicines.

Private sector representatives from four of the MeTA countries – Ghana, Jordan, Uganda and the Philippines – presented information about access to medicines in their respective countries. Small group discussion further explored the issues of interest to MeTA including price, quality, ethical practices and accessibility of medicines. MeTA’s goal is to generate good quality and robust information about the medicines sector. Disclosure of data is essential to the process. Peter Stephens from Intercontinental Marketing Services raised some important issues around disclosure and use of information. He pointed out that it is very difficult to get people to disclose information. There are ways of treating information or aggregating sensitive information that recognise the complexities of the market and respect competitive advantages.

There was a general sense at country level of the need to support the efforts of MeTA and to participate in multi-stakeholder dialogue. “The private sector has a huge role to play in terms of improving access to medicines in developing countries. Normally, there are number of projects that go on, but the private sector is not involved. So we are delighted that MeTA thinks that the private sector should be around the table. In Uganda most of the drugs are dispensed through private facilities anyway so really the private sector has to be involved if we have any chances of developing a sustainable model of improving access” said Nazeem Mohamed of the Kampala Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and co-Chair of the MeTA Uganda Council. 

Reiner Gloor of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines and MeTA Philippines Council member seese one role of the private sector as being able to clarify how the private sector works. "We made presentations at the last forum in January where we showed how the pricing structure is in the Philippines, which is a mystery to many people who think that retail stores and distributors take huge margins. We were able to prove that this is not necessarily the case. I think this has been appreciated, for example, by NGOs who think very often that price is the only issue. They are coming around that safety and efficacy are equally important and that we have to work together and try to convince the government to look at real health care reform which would provide a safety net to the poor.”

Larger international pharmaceutical companies also considered the role of the private sector to be valuable in increasing access to medicines. “MeTA is a very exciting initiative. I think there is a lot of opportunity for it to act as a catalyst for change…The private sector can bring its experience; the challenges that the private sector has faced in trying to achieve access to medicines, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully and to bring that experience to the table to share with a broader group to perhaps have a better chance of overcoming the hurdles and barriers to access” said Mariam Haxaire-Theeuwes of Tibotec.

Chris Mockler from the Secretariat of the American Pharmaceutical Group said, “MeTA is something that we are very supportive of and something that we are extremely pleased is happening because we think it is extremely vital that all those involved actually get round the table and talk to each other and understand what is going on. There is always a danger that companies, and I include research based companies in this, go into silos and don’t know what each other is doing. The advantage of having a multi-stakeholder council in each of the countries is that they talk to each other, they learn from each other and from what I have heard back from the councils, this is one of the great benefits.

He added, "The expectations should be high but not too high. I think that we can achieve more transparency, that we can probably achieve better systems and we can set out models but we must not assume that we can transform the healthcare structure, and certainly not overnight. It is a long term project.”

MeTA looks forward to fruitful relationships with pharmaceutical companies at international and national levels to increase participation and the efficacy of multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Presentation on MeTA's core principles 

Presentations from the meeting


Categories: Availability, Ghana, Jordan, Multi-stakeholder, Philippines, Prices, Promotion, Quality, Transparency, Uganda

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