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    An Andean Medicines Policy

    By Keith R | March 29, 2009

    Topics: Pharmaceutical Issues | No Comments »

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    Last Friday the 30th Meeting of the Health Ministers of the Andean Area (RMSAA) agreed on other important health measures — a coordinated epidemiological surveillance system, joint plans to combat HIV/AIDS, protect health in border areas and to combat child malnutrition — but the one that caught my eye was the new Andean Medicines Policy.

    Not because it’s the first time the Andean nations have breached the policy topic. In fact, a rudimentary policy was first developed in the early 1990s with help from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Action Programme on Essential Drugs (now part of the Department of Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies – EMP) and adopted in 1993.

    No, it’s because this is a revamped medicines policy, one that the nations involved appear determined to translate into action, and one that may serve as the basis for a later similar effort at the level of the bigger 12-nation Union of South American Nations (Unasur).* In other words, it may have significant implications for both public health policy and the pharmaceutical market in South America.

    Andean Health Policy Cooperation

    Unlike other areas of Andean policy cooperation, health involves more than just the four member states of the Andean Community (CAN) (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru) and work in the area has its own legal framework, decision-making structure and technical secretariat. Under the Hipólito Unanue Convention (“CONHU”) governing work in this area, Chile and Venezuela (two former members of CAN) are intimately involved, and the work is coordinated by the autonomous Andean Health Organism (Organismo Andino de SaludORAS), not the CAN Secretariat.

    Key Elements of the Andean Medicines Policy

    * Unasur members include Agentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

    From the Andean Community (CAN):

    Health accomplishments underscored during Meeting of Health Ministers of the Andean Area

    The coordination of the epidemiological surveillance system at the Andean and South American levels and the creation of the South American Health Council were, among others, the accomplishments emphasized at the opening of the Thirtieth Meeting of Health Ministers of the Andean Area (RMSAA), held last night at the headquarters of the Andean Community General Secretariat.

    Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon chaired the opening session, which was attended by Ministers Ramiro Tapia of Bolivia, Caroline Chang of Ecuador, Oscar Ugarte of Peru, and Vice-Ministers Carlos Ignacio Cuervo of Colombia, Julio César Alvarez of Venezuela, and Pedro Crocco of Chile, together with the Executive Secretary of the Andean Health Body, Oscar Feo; the Secretary General of the Andean Community, Freddy Ehlers, and the Ambassadors of the Andean countries.

    During the ceremony, Caroline Chang, Representative of Ecuador, transferred the Chairmanship of REEMSA, the highest-level organ of the Andean Health Body – Hipólito Unanue Convention (ORAS-CONHU), to her Peruvian counterpart, Oscar Ugarte. An assessment was also made of the health accomplishments of the past year.

    Among the accomplishments mentioned was the formulation and approval of the 2009-2012 Strategic Plan –the first of the Andean Health Body– that is “absolutely consistent with the Health Agenda approved by the South American Presidents and Ministers,” in the words of the Executive Secretary of ORAS-CONHU, Oscar Feo.

    Also stressed were the coordination of the epidemiological surveillance systems and of the Andean Policy on Medicines at the South American level; the development of Andean plans to fight HIV/AIDS, health in border areas (PASAFRO); and the Andean plan to fight infant malnutrition, among others, which were largely carried out in coordination with the MERCOSUR countries and PAHO/WHO, thereby “perfecting and bringing nearer the dream of South American unity.”

    The Ecuadorian Minister, Caroline Chang, stated that this has been an important year for health in the Andean area, because of the joint actions that have been taken. She pointed out that the experiences of the countries have enriched Andean integration in the health area and that it is now necessary to continue moving toward South America’s integration, started with the recent establishment of the South American Health Council.

    The Minister of Health of Peru, Oscar Ugarte, for his part, stated that Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Venezuela are linked together particularly by this joint experience in fighting for the public health of our Andean and Latin American countries. “It is one of the richest experiences,” he stressed, adding that the challenge now is to approve solutions to the problems the countries face in common. “I am convinced that we will have the instruments with which to continue our joint fight against poverty and to improve and ensure access to health services,” he added.

    Desde la Comunidad Andina (CAN):

    Destacan logros en materia de salud durante Reunión de Ministros de Salud del Area Andina

    La articulación de sistemas de vigilancia epidemiológica a nivel andino y suramericano y la creación del Consejo Suramericano de Salud fueron, entre otros, los logros destacados en la inauguración de la XXX Reunión de Ministras y Ministros de Salud del Area Andina (REMSAA), realizada anoche en la sede de la Secretaría General de la Comunidad Andina.

    La ceremonia de inauguración fue presidida por el Primer Ministro del Perú, Yehude Simon, y contó con la participación de las ministros Ramiro Tapia de Bolivia, Caroline Chang de Ecuador, Oscar Ugarte del Perú y los viceministros Carlos Ignacio Cuervo de Colombia, Julio César Alviarez de Venezuela y Pedro Crocco de Chile, así como del Secretario Ejecutivo del Organismo Andino de Salud, Oscar Feo; el Secretario General de la Comunidad Andina, Freddy Ehlers y los Embajadores de los países andinos.

    Durante el acto, se efectuó el traspaso de la Presidencia de la REEMSA – máxima instancia del Organismo Andino de Salud – Convenio Hipólito Unanue (ORAS-CONHU)- de parte de la Titular del Ecuador, Caroline Chang, a su par del Perú, Oscar Ugarte. Asimismo, se realizó un balance de los logros obtenidos en materia de salud en el último año.

    Entre dichos logros, se mencionaron la elaboración y aprobación del Plan Estratégico 2009-2012 -la primera del Organismo Andino de Salud-, que “guarda absoluta consistencia con la Agenda de Salud aprobada por los Presidentes y Ministros Suramericanos”, según especificó el Secretario Ejecutivo del ORAS-CONHU, Oscar Feo.

    Se resaltó también la articulación de los sistemas de vigilancia epidemiológica y de la Política Andina de Medicamentos a nivel suramericano; el desarrollo de los planes andinos de lucha contra el VIH Sida, salud en las fronteras (PASAFRO); y el plan andino de lucha contra la desnutrición infantil; entre otros, los cuales, en buena parte, se desarrollan en forma coordinada con los países del Mercosur y con la OPS/OMS, “perfilando y acercando el sueño de la unidad suramericana”.

    La ministra del Ecuador, Caroline Chang, manifestó que éste ha sido un año importante para la salud en el área andina, por las acciones que se han desarrollado en forma conjunta. Indicó que las experiencias vividas han permitido fortalecer la integración andina en materia de salud y ahora se necesita seguir avanzando hacia la integración suramericana, iniciada con la reciente conformación Consejo Suramericano de Salud.

    Por su parte, el Ministro de Salud del Perú, Oscar Ugarte, dijo que a Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Chile y Venezuela les une particularmente esta experiencia conjunta en la lucha por la salud pública de nuestros países andinos y latinoamericanos. “Es una de las experiencias más ricas”, subrayó y dijo que el reto ahora es aprobar soluciones a problemas comunes que tienen los países. “Estoy convencido que tendremos instrumentos para que nosotros podamos continuar la lucha conjunta en el combate a la pobreza y para mejorar y garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud”, añadió.

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