Lobby to help poor nations tackle chronic diseases

Friday September 29 2017

Insulin bottles. Non-communicable diseases are

Insulin bottles. Non-communicable diseases are the number one cause of death and disability worldwide. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

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A new health lobby is seeking to increase access to essential drugs for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in poor countries.

The Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products, launched recently on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, will tackle barriers countries face in procuring, supplying and distributing essential medicines and technology, and ensure they are used effectively.

It is made up of the private sector, philanthropic and academic institutions, as well as non-governmental organisations. International health organisation PATH will serve as the coalition’s secretariat.

“Medicines and technologies for chronic diseases are less available and less affordable for people in low-resource countries,” said PATH president and CEO Steve Davis.

“That equity gap leaves the most vulnerable people at greater risk for complications and death from NCDs.”

NCDs including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are the number one cause of death and disability worldwide. About three-quarters of NCD-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, data shows.

It is estimated that 100 million people in low-resource settings are forced into poverty each year by the costs associated with managing chronic diseases.

Expensive medication
“We know from our work with health facilities, pharmacies, care providers and patients that many people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease are not able to access the medicines and products they need at a price they can afford,” said the head, NCD unit at Kenya’s Ministry of Health Kibachio Joseph.

“This coalition will add great momentum to the government’s efforts to ensure that people can access the treatment they need.”

Progress on reducing the burden of NCDs has been slow and uneven within and across countries.

Some of the issues affecting access to medicines and products include inefficient procurement practices, inadequate funding models and pricing mark-ups along the supply chain.

“By leveraging the skills, resources and expertise of members, the coalition will complement existing initiatives, create new opportunities and raise awareness about the importance of ensuring equal access to health commodities for NCDs,” said the leader of PATH’s NCD programme, Helen McGuire.

“Together, we can identify and address barriers to access, strengthen supply chains, control the risk of interruptions or delays and efficiently get products to the market.”