Coming soon: Bangkok Commitments 2015 on access to pharmaceutical services

06 March 2015 - Bangkok - National TB Program managers from different countries, procurement and supply chain management specialists, and data managers, came together in Bangkok for a week-long conference to exchange experiences on ways to increase access to pharmaceutical services including medicines and diagnostics.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program, in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership Global Drug Facility, hosted this technical conference: "Building the Post-2015 Agenda: Novel Approaches to Improving Access to TB Medicines and Pharmaceutical Services" during March 2-6, 2015.

The conference discussed ways to improve early case detection of TB by streamlining data collection at various levels within countries, by monitoring early warning signals to prevent stock out of TB drugs and by enhancing engagement with private sector retail pharmacies to reach missed patients. It also discussed pharmacovigilance challenges and the role of finance in estimating projected costs of TB services and financial needs for procurement and supply management within countries.

Countries, donors and partners sat together on the final day to draft Bangkok Commitments 2015. These new set of goals currently being finalized, seeks commitments, to support and align national strategies, to build and share experiences, and implement action plans towards TB elimination.

There were several discussions on Early Warning Systems (EWS) - processes to encourage effective decision making to promote availability of drugs and reduce waste. This tied into standardized data collecting and reporting mechanisms in a timely manner, so as to contribute to transparency and enhanced communication between all stakeholders within countries. For example, in order for MDR-TB patients to access quality assured drugs, an accurate country forecast is necessary.

The conference also discussed commitments on pharmacovigilance including establishing or strengthening pharmacovigilance for all medicines especially for new medicines and novel regimens, and developing risk management and risk communication strategies.

Sessions on public private mix, suggested mapping retail private sector pharmacies and their role in reaching people living with TB who are missed every year. There were suggestions to include retail private sector pharmacies in national strategic plans, TB guidelines and a framework for public-private sector collaboration.

The conference also discussed the role of finance, not only for procurement and supply management needs of countries, but also ways to ensure and promote the allocation of resources to ensure equitable access to medicines, including the financial protection of patients. The economic costs of stock-outs of drugs and projected costs of TB services in light of greater case notifications were discussed.

Replete with presentations of successful, tested approaches from countries, the conference was a platform for all participants to discuss first hand issues including bottlenecks faced in procurement, uneven quality of data and difficulties in tracking pharmacovigilance of medicines. It was an innovative model for a technical conference that constantly had interactive sessions. It resulted in clear action points that were taken back to respective countries.

Joel Keravec, manager, Global Drug Facility, said, "It was an innovative conference with emphasis on experience sharing and discussions, which was very well received by countries. The SIAPS program, GDF and other partners put efforts in coordinating and streamlining their models of Technical Assistance and used existing tools to effectively support countries in their challenges for improved access to pharmaceutical services."

Other partners at the conference included WHO, TB Alliance, MSH, KNCV, BRAC, FHI 360, and Partners in Health, among others.