The El Salvadoran Ministry of Health, with the support of EUROsociAL, organized a workshop on “independent information and rational use of medicines”, which brought together the majority of national stakeholders involved in pharmaceutical policy.
The workshop, held on 24th and 25 March with the support of EUROsociAL, the cooperation programme of the European Union managed by the FIIAPP, represented a milestone in national pharmaceutical policy. Inaugurated by the Deputy Minister of Health and the National Director of Medicines, it brought together for the first time all the stakeholders (ministry, regulator, insurance institutions, academia) to address the issue of rational use of medicines.
In this workshop, EUROsociAL mobilized the experiences of Spain, Argentina and Colombia. As a result, the Andean nation, which has enjoyed the support of EUROsociAL since 2013 in implementing its own national rational use programme, is entering into a sustained partnership with El Salvador which is product of a reflection on the successes and obstacles in its own process. This inter-agency coordination exercise made it possible to establish a roadmap for the national programme for rational use of medicines.
Up to the year 2013, having access to medicines was a luxury for a large part of the Salvadoran population. As the Deputy Minister of Health, Eduardo Espinoza, acknowledged, the country was in a dramatic situation: “the highest prices in the world, supply shortages of 50%, 80% of health spending by the poorest quintile dedicated to the purchase of medicines”. Advancing towards a law on medicines that would guarantee an effective right to health had become a priority for the government, and in 2012 it approved a solid regulatory framework.
Since then, considerable improvements in supply (85%[i]) and in price control have been achieved, but there is still one remaining challenge: limiting irrational use of medicines, which has negative consequences for the health of the population and for health spending, affecting the most vulnerable persons (those most inclined towards self-medication, who are also those most receptive to disinformation and most harmed by their spending on medicines). Today, 70% of annual spending on medicines is private (paid directly by patients, without any contribution from the public system), and 80% of this spending is without a doctor’s prescription. In addition, the most widely consumed medicines are unrelated to the epidemiological profile of the country.
[i]Figures released by the Deputy Minister of Health.