Procurement staff are typically given little training or technical support to help them evaluate the products they are buying or verify the sources of those products adequately. More often than not, the decision to buy is based on cost alone, with assumptions about quality necessarily being left to trust rather than evidence. Given the distances that separate most procurement activities from the end user of the products, feedback mechanisms are often unavailable when problems occur.
To be effective, any health care project will depend on a whole series of procedures concerned with planning, evaluation, management and implementation. Most health care providers place a great deal of emphasis on quality when considering their interventions yet they appear not to give the same degree of attention to their procedures when purchasing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
When considering the use of a medical supplier, buyers should always make sure that they are satisfied with the information being provided with the products including the measures being taken to ensure the quality of the products. A basic overview of the major issues is presented on the following pages and suggestions are made for some reasonable demands which can be made in order to confirm the quality and appropriateness of the medical products being purchased.
There are over 100 000 different pharmaceutical preparations available on the world market. Composition, presentation and quality control, as well as price, can vary enormously between manufacturers and countries, with implications for product performance, appropriateness and potential harm to human health. Even when regulations are in place to govern manufacturing practices and the manufacturing chain, there can be considerable differences in the application of such standards.