Washington, DC, 18 January, 2019 (PAHO/WHO)- The Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) recommended its first non-communicable disease (NCD) medicines to CARICOM countries, including amlodipine for high blood pressure and anastrozole for breast cancer at the end of 2018. The mechanism is managed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in close technical cooperation with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Medicines and Other Health Technologies Unit, located within the Health Systems and Services cluster (HSS/MT).

The HSS/MT unit provides technical cooperation to develop key regulatory functions that can evaluate and monitor medicines for quality and safety through efficiencies such as reliance on the work of larger, trusted regulatory authorities. The work is funded through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve regulatory capacity and performance, which in turn facilitates access to quality essential and affordable medicines for patients.

The Caribbean is the worst affected sub-region in the Americas for NCDs, which are a leading cause of premature mortality, making up about half of all deaths of people under 70. The recommended medicines are some of the most important tools that health providers and patients have to correct dangerous conditions like high blood pressure and cancer. For example, amlodipine is recognized as a critically effective blood pressure lowering medicine and is one of the most highly purchased products in the sub-region. Anastrozole is a key treatment in breast cancer and is listed on the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of essential medicines. These actions mark an important new milestone for assuring access to quality essential NCD medicines in the region, where regulatory capacity can be limited due to small populations and few human resources.

The CRS requires that each medicine has to be pre-approved by a strong regulatory authority like the United States Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization, and be suitable for the Region, before it can be recommended to CARICOM member states. Further, most of the products the CRS recommends are generic versions of originals, which are less expensive to health systems and patients. A goal of the program is to have recommended versions of all NCD medicines listed on WHO's list of essential medicines.

For more information visit the CRS website.