Pharmaceuticals were discussed extensively at the Meeting of the Ministers of Health, held at the Bandos Island Resort from 20 –22 August 2001. The focus was on providing essential drugs of adequate quality at affordable prices to all sectors, including the private sector. While the Ministers acknowledged that the Region has the capacity to manufacture and supply the required essential drugs, this has not been achieved for many reasons. The record in the government sectors has been reasonable, but the record in the private sector leaves much to be desired. Comprehensive publicly-funded insurance (the “macro” component)for all citizens would be a good target, but many problems could prevent it from being attained. In addition, activities focused on prescriber/user (“micro ”)need to be integrated into the macro approach. For smaller countries such as Bhutan and the Maldives, bulk procurement schemes (BPS)are a viable option, and WHO collaboration in this area was requested. However, technical issues, such as harmonization of registration, would need to be sorted out before such a scheme could be worked out.
It was also recommended that the state provide unbiased drug information for both prescribers and consumers. Otherwise, the only available information on drugs would be that provided by manufacturers and sellers whose primary motivations are profit-oriented. Governments should therefore allocate a certain proportion of their drug budget for providing drug information. In other words, the drug budget must be used not only for “hardware” (drugs), but also for “software” (drug software).It was also recommended that “civil society ”,as represented by informed consumer groups, should be involved in decisions regarding drugs.