In order to prevent shortages of medical products during future health emergencies, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) convened a dialogue between the health sectors, the industry, and science and technology in the region.
“The shortage of medical products can disrupt health care and put health and life at risk,” said PAHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.
“For this reason, it is a priority that health, science and technology, and the industry work together to guarantee equitable access to medicines and other essential technologies in times of peace, but also during future emergencies,” he said.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC , stressed that “the health industry is a strategic sector and we have the challenge of combining its social objectives , of satisfying the health needs of the population with its possibilities for regional economic development.
For this, it is essential to have integrated health, science and technology, and industrial policies oriented by this challenge and mission, and under a public-private partnership ”, he expressed.
The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has evidenced structural weaknesses of the health systems in the region and the bases for rethinking their development, as well as the vulnerability of global supply chains , with the restriction of imports and the insufficient availability of medical products and health technologies to meet large increases in demand.
In addition, the region has a health manufacturing industry that, with few exceptions, has little development and a low level of technological sophistication, and, consequently, has a high external dependence on these products: according to ECLAC estimates, only 4% of imports of medical products related to the response to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean originated from the region itself.
Towards an integrated regional market for medicines and technologies
The PAHO and ECLAC agreed on the need for a renewed vision of comprehensive policies that consider the objectives and needs of the health sector and encourage the industrial development of the sector.
The challenge is to move towards an integrated regional market for medicines and other health technologies, based on shared production and research networks between countries.
If it reaches the necessary scale, this market could reduce external dependence and ensure access to the medical products necessary to satisfy regional demand.
During the meeting, participants from the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology , as well as representatives of associations of the drug industry and other technologies from developing countries, also analyzed the regional situation and the prospects for implementing comprehensive policies, as well as conditions to improve productive capacity.
In addition, they exchanged information on national initiatives for equitable access to medicines and other health technologies.