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OECS looking to reduce costs of importing drugs

Friday, November 10, 2017

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FORT-DE FRANCE, Martinique (CMC) — Health ministers from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) began a two-day meeting here on Friday examining ways to share scarce resources while improving access to health services for people of the sub-regional grouping.

“We are meeting here in Martinique at this critical time and Martinique has deliberately been chosen for this meeting because your health system is the most sophisticated in the OECS and there are many lessons to be learned from your best practices….a lesson of Irma and Maria is that alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,” OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules told the opening ceremony.

“Our geographic proximity is both a common vulnerability but it also enables us to respond with neighbourly urgency” Jules said, noting that the Caribbean had changed dramatically post Hurricane Maria and there were natural opportunities to collaborate to deliver better health outcomes across the OECS.

Last year, the St Lucia-based OECS Commission spent an estimated EC$25 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) through the OECS Pharmaceutical Service acquiring medical products.

The Commission said that as a result of the bulk purchase, it was able to save five million dollars for the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands.

The financial savings in the health sector is among the topics being discussed at the fourth Council of OECS Health Ministers meeting that is also expected to evaluate the member states' response to non-chronic communicable diseases (NCDs), health human resource sharing in the Eastern Caribbean.

Regional Health Information Strategy as well as health services cooperation in Martinique The ministers are also to discuss the annual work programme of the OECS/Pharmaceutical Procurement Service and will also explore expanding the OECS/PPS product portfolio to include the pooled procurement of Laboratory supplies, particularly viral load reagents for monitoring People Living with HIV/AIDS.

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