Andean nations weigh joint procurement of prescription drugs

EFE

Ministers of health from the countries of the Andean region met here Tuesday to discuss matters of common interest, including the possibility of buying drugs in bulk to reduce costs and be able to reach more people with them.

The 37th edition of the gathering brings together senior officials from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said problems of access to medicine in his country "create difficulties that are reflected in all the other countries in the region."

Behind the proposal of joint drug purchases is the idea that pharmaceutical companies will be willing to offer volume discounts, Peru's Silvia Pessah told EFE.

However, according to Andean Health Organization executive secretary Nila Heredia, "There are obstacles that prevent a corporate purchase from happening due to the regulations in each country."

She told EFE that her organization had been a pioneer in the corporate purchase of anti-AIDS drugs.

Another issue is teen pregnancy, Ecuadorian Health Minister Veronica Espinosa told EFE.

"It's a problem that continues to attract attention and on which we have to work hard ... (with) common elements" such as education and prevention of sexual assault, she said.

Espinosa noted that humanity had been confronted with health problems before but that the only way to overcome them was "through articulate, joint work, understanding that diseases do not respect borders, and - therefore - the mission of countries has to be to overcome our territorial boundaries."

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