Essential medicines for noncommunicable diseases available through the PAHO Strategic Fund

close up of purchase of medicines

Acting on its long-standing commitment toward supporting universal health and noncommunicable diseases across the Americas Region, PAHO has continued to scale up access to affordable and quality-assured essential medicines for noncommunicable diseases, including by publishing a brochure that outlines the core medications available for Member States to address noncommunicable diseases.

Washington, DC, December 1, 2021 (PAHO) –  While most of the world is fixated on the emergency response to COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has simultaneously kept a close eye on maintaining access to essential medicines and supplies that are key to supporting lifesaving routine health services. Essential medicines and supplies to treat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and to provide palliative care are available for the Member States through the PAHO Strategic Fund and have been detailed in a new brochure.

NCDs – principally cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, and diabetes – are the leading causes of death globally. In the Americas region, NCDs are the cause of 81% of all deaths. An estimated 250 million people in the region living with NCDs  require access to essential medicines to control their disease and prevent premature death. While behavioral factors and other social determinants of health impact NCDs, the issue of equitable access to NCD medicines cannot be ignored, with the vast majority – 85% – of NCD deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, including in the Americas.

In response to this critical public health crisis, PAHO has ramped up its efforts to expand equitable and universal access to NCD medicines over the past several years. These medicines are an essential part of care for people living with chronic diseases and can save lives while improving wellbeing at the community and population level.

As part of this initiative, the PAHO Strategic Fund worked closely with PAHO’s NCD program to identify the essential medicines that need to be made more widely available to Member States to improve care for people with NCDs. This initiative includes the publication of a brochure titled “Essential Medicines for Noncommunicable Diseases Available through the PAHO Strategic Fund.” Useful information is featured about five key NCD areas – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, palliative care, and chronic respiratory diseases – as well as the quality-assured medicines that the Strategic Fund offers, which Member States can procure at affordable prices. The brochure also includes helpful resources, such as how to use the Strategic Fund, relevant background information on NCDs, and price comparisons of NCD medicines acquired through traditional mechanisms versus the Strategic Fund.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has further challenged already-constrained and under-resourced health systems, experts argue that now is not the time to walk back on commitments to support essential health services such as NCDs. “COVID-19 puts patients at higher risk of complications and death from diseases which we know how to treat’’ said Dr Anselm Hennis, Director of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health ‘’Policymakers should urgently address this to ensure consistent supply of high quality NCD medicines at affordable prices for people, so they don’t go into poverty having to simply pay for medicines that keep them, or their family members well treated for their disease.” Without making NCD medicines easily accessible and affordable to all patients, Member States will struggle to achieve their priority public health goals or attain universal health. The time to invest in lifesaving medicines for people with chronic diseases is now, and the PAHO Strategic Fund can provide an affordable mechanism for quality-assured medicines for Member States to meet these targets.

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PAHO established the Strategic Fund in 2000 to improve access to quality-assured, safe, and effective medicines and supplies and to strengthen the efficiency and sustainability of public health systems across the Americas. As the primary technical cooperation mechanism for the pooled procurement of health products in the region, the Strategic Fund started offering NCD treatments in 2013, in addition to its ongoing support for communicable diseases ranging from HIV/AIDS to leishmaniasis to hepatitis.

PAHO also promotes, coordinates, and implements technical cooperation activities directed to preventing and controlling NCDs, related risk factors and associated disabilities, and mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders. It aims to raise political and public awareness and understanding of the burden of the most common NCDs and leads multi-sector and multi-stakeholder strategic and collaborative efforts to strengthen Member States' capacity to promote and protect health through public policies, programs, and services.

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