Medicines Selection and Procurement in South Africa. South African Health Review 2012/13(SAHR), 2012/13, Chapter 14
(2013; 9 pages)


The main objective of South Africa’s National Drug Policy (NDP), adopted in 1996, was to support equitable access to medicines by addressing a full range of components: legislation, selection, pricing, procurement and supply, human resources and traditional medicines as well as cooperation with regional and international organisations. The objective of this chapter is to review the medicines selection and procurement components of the NDP. Medicines selection in both the public and private sectors in South Africa has undergone significant transformation in the past 16 years. The implementation of the national Essential Medicines List and supporting structures in the form of provincial and facility-based Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committees has introduced levels of rigour in assessment of medicine selection but still needs improvement.

The procurement of medicines is also in the process of reform, with proposals for establishing a centralised procurement unit, referred to as the “Central Procurement Agency”. The relocation of medicines tender processes from the National Treasury to the National Department of Health appears to have had some impact in reducing the cost of medicines and improving access and availability. The potential role of state owned manufacturing of pharmaceuticals is also discussed.

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