PAHO's collaborative initiatives to bring more affordable pricing of vaccines and medicines

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Washington DC, 23 April 2021 (PAHO)—The World Health Organization (WHO), with the support of the Ministry of Health of Argentina, organized the 2021 Fair Pricing Forum, which took place virtually between 13-15 and 20-22 April 2021, and focused on improving access to medicines and health products through fair pricing. 

James Fitzgerald, Director of PAHO Health Systems and Services, participated in the session on Cross-border collaborative initiatives to enable affordable pricing of vaccines and medicines. This session aimed to revisit various aspects of cross-border collaborative initiatives to bring about more affordable pricing of vaccines and medicines, with the purpose of exploring possible options for further enabling these initiatives.

“The Pan American Health Organization has established the Revolving Funds mechanisms, the Revolving Fund for Vaccine Procurement and the Strategic Fund for Essential Medicines and Public Health Supplies, to improve access to vaccines and strategic public health supplies throughout the Americas,” said Fitzgerald. 

The PAHO´s Revolving Fund for Vaccine Procurement is a cooperation mechanism for the joint procurement of vaccines, syringes, and related supplies for participating Member States that has been in existence for more than 40 years. It has provided access to safe and quality vaccines at affordable prices for the Member States and Territories throughout the region. 

The Strategic Fund for Essential Medicines and Public Health Supplies (Strategic Fund) is a regional technical cooperation mechanism for pooled procurement of essential medicines and strategic health supplies. It helps PAHO Member States to plan demand, guarantee rational use, and avoid stock-outs of these products. The fund has signed agreements with 34 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean to participate in the mechanism and provides support to social security and public health institutions throughout the region.

“The Strategic Fund was instrumental as part of PAHO´s Incident Management System in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure access to personal protective equipment (PPE), diagnostics, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and antigen tests”, said Fitzgerald. “Now, many of the countries in the region are facing critical shortages on supply of medicines required for intensive care units (ICU) and critical care management, and the Strategic Fund is working in this arena as well.”

“Establishing such mechanisms requires not just administrative planning processes, but important technical input from the quality assurance side,” he added.  

The panel discussed the factors that should be considered, so the pricing through cross-border collaborative initiatives is implemented with clear rationale from the scientific political, legal, and commercial perspectives. 

The 2021 Fair Pricing Forum brought together representatives from the Member States and relevant stakeholders from civil society, academia, the private health sector, and UN agencies. 

The objectives of the Forum were to:
(1) share countries’ experiences in ensuring affordability and transparency of prices and costs of health products;
(2) to advance discussion and knowledge on approaches and system factors pertaining to the pricing and R&D of pharmaceutical products for enhancing affordability, transparency, and innovation, and achieving health sustainable development goals; and
(3) to activate additional support for countries to achieve more affordable and fairer access to pharmaceutical products during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The 2021 Fair Pricing Forum is the third forum held since the first forum in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) in 2017, and the second forum in Johannesburg (South Africa) in 2019.