In January 2003, DAP will finalize a new survey package to facilitate monitoring and assessing country pharmaceutical situations. This package provides a cost-effective means for countries to determine the extent of access and proper use of quality essential medicines. Policy makers and managers can use results from the surveys to identify strengths and weaknesses of the pharmaceutical sector and prioritize areas of work. Follow-up surveys can assess the impact of interventions and monitor trends over time.
The package minimizes the investment of time, personnel and financial resources. The 14 surveys that make up the package are completed with data from public health facilities and their pharmacies, private pharmacies, central/district warehouses and households. In all, the surveys take 10 people a total of 12 days to complete and provide quality information for making comparisons between facilities, regions and countries.
The package has been field-tested in 17 countries representing every WHO region. Data from these surveys are noteworthy:
• The number of drugs allowed to be sold on the market varies considerably between countries. In Chad, 453 drugs may be sold on the market. In Bulgaria, the figure is 4 475, in Guatemala 10 000 and in Malaysia 24 916.
• In Iran's public health facilities the percentage of patients able to recognize each dispensed drug, its indication and its use ranged from 38% to 84% between regions.
• In public health facilities in China, the percentage of patients receiving antibiotics varied between 17% and 80%.
• In Uganda, availability of essential medicines varied twofold among public health facilities and fivefold among warehouses.
This is valuable information that countries can use to prioritize action in the pharmaceutical sector. Each country is encouraged to organize workshops tailored to stakeholders'needs at facility, national and regional levels. At these workshops, the report of the baseline survey will be presented and stakeholder experiences will be discussed. Stakeholders will be asked to use the results as an impetus to direct actions, priorities and strategies to address problem areas.