The bulk purchasing system started in 1978 with one tender for 32 products for a total value of 1.1 million USD and 9 selected suppliers. In 1997, 850 products divided in 19 tenders for a total value of 178 million USD and involving 90 suppliers were purchased.
During the first years, only medicines were considered for bulk purchasing. Seven years later, hospital disposables, syringes, vaccines, laboratory reagents, orthopaedic articles and X-ray products (non-exhaustive list) have been included gradually.
From the start, the prices resulting from bulk tenders have been on average 30% lower than those obtained elsewhere.
The duration of the procurement process, from one to two years for individual country purchases, has been reduced to six-seven months within the bulk purchasing system.
In the beginning, member states had planned and committed themselves to purchase 60% of their requirements through the bulk purchasing process. For Saudi Arabia the percentage is now between 85% and 100%. In the course of the years all the countries have continued to adhere to the system.
The success of the initiative has attracted other interested parties looking for a way of obtaining quality products at a favourable price without getting lost in complicated local administrative procedures. The University Hospital of Riyadh and the armed forces of Saudi Arabia are two examples of candidates interested in participating. Jordan has also shown interest by sending a team to study the GCC system.