THE International Dispensary Association (IDA) celebrated its 25th anniversary in November 1997 with a symposium entitled “25 years of Essential Drugs: the Challenge Remains”. Over 100 people gathered at the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, to hear seven speakers representing international governmental organizations, national authorities from recipient countries, researchers and pharmaceutical suppliers. The symposium was chaired by Professor Graham Dukes of Oslo’s Institute of Pharmacotherapy.
The opening paper set the current scene, arguing that the money available for drug treatment of populations is insufficient and often not used optimally. Sometimes the wrong drugs are purchased, often they are poorly distributed and very commonly they are used unwisely, the audience was told.
IDA’s emphasis on quality
Quality assurance issues were highlighted in papers from representatives of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations and IDA. The latter explained how IDA has integrated a full quality assurance system in its operations. In this way it has overcome one obstacle to the wider use of generic drugs in countries where resources are limited. Speakers from Sudan and Uganda presented their views on “Acceptance, Acceptability and Availability of Essential Drugs”. They stressed the need to ensure that generic drugs of assured quality were trusted and accepted both by prescribers and patients. They argued that all countries need to develop and maintain a national drug policy to ensure continuing progress in the pharmaceutical sector.
A representative from DAP discussed WHO’s role, stressing that it would continue to be complementary to that of bilateral organizations, industry and non profit suppliers in moving from assistance in acute relief situations to the stage of progressive development.
The time reserved for discussions and questions saw a lively interaction between the audience and speakers. Debate ranged over many topics, including the importance of national drug policies and rational drug use; the need to control drug donations; the harmonisation of registration rules; the role of national quality control laboratories; and the need to further develop the WHO Certification Scheme on the Quality of Pharmaceutical Products moving in International Commerce.
On this memorable occasion IDA had sought to provide a forum for the exchange of facts and ideas - to look at what has been achieved in the area of essential drugs and what remains to be done. Guests left the symposium with a much better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in this critical area.
Professor Graham Dukes, opening IDA’s symposium