Access to affordable medications is critical to ensuring the health and well-being of people in West Africa. Pharmaceuticals are essential to the delivery of healthcare in any given population or country…” The absence or inadequate supply of drugs has always led to a loss of confidence in the healthcare system” (Ghana National Drug Policy 2nd edition July 2004). Margins on high quality medicines in Africa can be as high as 80-150%. (WHO 2008). Such high drug costs usually mean that patients are pushed to lower quality alternatives or unable to purchase medicines to cover their full treatment cycle. In many African markets, the pharmaceutical drug market is highly fragmented and poorly regulated. The consumer prices for these drugs are high – often over 100% above the pharmaceutical manufacturer's free on-board price. With very little regulation on pricing in Sub-Saharan African markets, there is high variability in pricing across service providers.
For third party payers (TPPs), medicines can account for up to 40% of their total claim costs, which reduces the ability of TPPs to cover certain medical services for all patients. Thereby reducing the quality of health that can be received by patients. Additionally, in unregulated markets such as Ghana, a typical free market with no restrictive barriers to the pharmaceutical market, there can be considerable price variation across retail pharmacy outlets. Adding to the fact that 60% of Ghanaians pay for their healthcare out of pocket. The statistics is not much different if not worse in most countries in Africa where health care financing is a challenge. This reality is even worse for patients with chronic diseases , whom many are pensioners and need a continuous supply of medicines to manage their conditions. The persistent increase in the cost of medications, however, presents serious obstacles that make it harder for everyone to afford the healthcare they need. Addressing this issue will require wide-ranging and coordinated efforts from all players in the healthcare system. In this article, we discuss some of the possible solutions to the problem of the ever-increasing cost of medicines in Ghana.
First, there is the need to enhance Generic Medication Availability: Promoting the availability and use of generic medications can significantly reduce medication prices. Governments can implement policies to facilitate generic competition through local production, streamline regulatory processes, and encourage the promotion of high-quality, affordable generic drugs. Educational campaigns can also raise awareness among healthcare professionals and patients about the safety and efficacy of generic medications.
Strengthen Healthcare Financing: Acces to finance for medicine procurement and distribution must be prioritised. The collaboration of financial intutitions like banks with pharmaceutical suppliers is one such option than can help curb the cost of medicine procurement and distribution. Improving healthcare financing mechanisms, with social insurance programmes and community-based health schemes, can help alleviate the financial burden on vulnerable individuals.
There is the urgent need to strengthen supply chain management and optimize inventory, minimize stockouts, and reduce waste in the pharmaceutical sector. The application of technology in real-Time Tracking and traceability is essential to transparency in the supply chain.:
Implementing technology-enabled systems for real-time tracking and traceability of pharmaceutical products throughout the supply chain can enhance visibility and improve inventory management. This helps identify bottlenecks, monitor stock levels, and prevent losses due to theft or expiration. Accurate demand planning and forecasting are crucial for maintaining optimal inventory levels. By analyzing historical data, market trends, and other relevant factors, supply chain managers can estimate future demand more accurately. This helps in preventing stockouts and overstocking, ultimately reducing the costs associated with inventory management.
The high cost of medicines in West Africa is a serious issue that requires coordinated efforts from all players in the healthcare system. Governments can implement policies to facilitate generic competition, streamline regulatory processes, and encourage the production of high-quality, affordable generic drugs. Educational campaigns can also raise awareness among healthcare professionals and patients about the safety and efficacy of generic medications. Another solution is to strengthen healthcare financing by increasing access to finance for medicine procurement.
Finally, building strong and collaborative relationships with suppliers, distributors, and other stakeholders like financial institutions in the supply chain is essential. The adoption of technology can improve communication and information sharing to enable better coordination and alignment of supply and demand. This collaboration can lead to improved inventory management, reduced lead times, and lower costs. Addressing the constant rise in medication prices in West Africa necessitates a multi-faceted approach involving government policies, regional collaboration, regulatory enforcement, and stakeholder engagement. By promoting generic competition, strengthening regulatory frameworks, fostering local production, improving healthcare financing, advocating for price transparency, supporting R&D, and facilitating technology transfer, we can strive towards a more equitable and affordable healthcare system in West Africa. It is crucial for all stakeholders to come together and take action to ensure that essential medications are accessible to all, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
George Kesse B.pharm,MSC.MBA.
Ceo-Founder, AdvancePharma Innovations.
LinkedIn; George Kesse
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