An International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) report asks why products like Coca-Cola can reach remote villages in developing nations while essential medicines like antibiotics and vaccines cannot always be found. The report, entitled Improving Access to Essential Medicines Through Public-Private Partnerships documents the poor availability of essential health products (EHPs) in Sub-Saharan Africa and explores how to improve EHP distribution via collaborations with the private sector.
Focusing on the distribution stage in the EHP supply chain, the report examines the causes of bottlenecks at this stage. Distributors of consumer packaged goods (CPGs), such as food, beverages, tobacco, and mobile phone refill cards, have been more successful at reaching remote locations under difficult conditions than distributors of essential medicines. In the most remote villages of Africa, a person is more likely to find a kiosk with mobile phone cards in stock than a clinic with the basic antibiotics or vaccines in stock.
“Global efforts to improve access to essential medicines and vaccines have often focused on procurement and financing but not enough on distribution, especially to ‘last-mile’ populations,” said Orin Levine, Executive Director of IVAC. “By capturing best practices from the private sector, we think we can improve distribution systems and enhance access while saving both lives and money.”
In 2007, 151 million vaccine doses were wasted in developing countries due to improper refrigeration. A study by the GAVI Alliance suggested that 25-50 million doses of pentavalent DTP-HepB-Hib vaccine, valued at $80-160 million, could be saved in developing countries by eliminating unnecessary wastage from heat damage, freeze damage or disposal of unused portions of multidose vials.
Public-private partnerships between the global health community and private sector can leverage the strengths of CPG companies to improve availability of essential medicines via knowledge exchange, shared infrastructure, generating appropriate performance monitoring metrics, and investing in product innovation.