Washington D.C., 13 December 2019 (PAHO)—The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) with a 3-year grant for strengthening pharmacovigilance (PV) capacity in Central America. The new funds are part of the global “Smart Safety Surveillance” (3s) initiative, a risk-based approach that builds pharmacovigilance capacity around the introduction of new medicines to treat priority diseases.The project will help to build the necessary capacities around PV in a pilot that will focus on malaria in Central America.

“This initiative puts Central America in a good position to align its work with the principles of the “3s” strategy and accelerate pharmacovigilance capacities for the future,” said James Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services at PAHO.

The project will monitor selected medicines for PV via the new regional mechanism for regulation in Central America, launched by the Governments of Central America including Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. The PAHO Strategic Fund, which is a pooled procurement mechanism to supply essential and public health medicines to countries, will also be used to introduce and monitor key medicines in these countries.

Through both mechanisms, the monitoring will focus on facilitated and active surveillance techniques. This will entail setting up a regional coordination mechanism consisting of national regulatory authority (NRA) and public health program experts across the countries to facilitate preparation for 3s and PV monitoring.

In addition, local experts will be added to the mechanism to form an advisory committee. Selected medicines will focus on malaria, but the project can be flexible to consider other product areas if agreed upon and aligned with project goals (e.g. tuberculosis).

PAHO is currently supporting active surveillance pilots in the subregion. A comprehensive Central American approach with multi country participation will offer further benefits including pooling of data, sharing of information.

PAHO will serve as the secretariat for this initiative through the Medicines and Health Technologies Unit at the PAHO headquarters in Washington, DC.