Will access to essential asthma medicines be on NCD Summit agenda?

Asthma is the most common chronic disease. Since 2000, some areas of public health, such as tuberculosis (TB), have gone from being deprived of resources for decades to having significant amounts of funding. While important gaps remain, this “dream come true” has also revealed that spending better is equally necessary as spending more. Ms Cécile Macé, Pharmacist and Coordinator, The Union's Asthma Drug Facility (ADF) said at the 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health in Berlin, Germany that "ADF improves affordability of essential asthma medicines in developing countries." Read more

It is not only important for the countries, particularly low- and middle- income countries to have access to affordable asthma medicines but quality is important to monitor as well. The Asthma Drug Facility (ADF) is a mechanism to improve access to affordable and quality asthma medicines where they are needed most, said Cécile Macé.

Lack of adequate skilled healthcare providers to manage asthma care is also a critical impediment to the response. Improving skills of healthcare personnel by the development of guidelines and training packages, is another key priority to improve response to asthma in low- and middle- income countries, said Cécile Macé.

Assessing quality of asthma care by regular monitoring, is another key challenge, said Cécile Macé.

Policy makers and economists need to understand that asthma care is a smart investment –because costs increase manifold when asthma is either not treated at all or incorrectly treated. So a wise strategy and to make the best use of every resource available, it is vital to manage asthma in the right way and provide standard treatment and care, said Cécile Macé. We need to reduce the unnecessary expense of emergency asthma, said Cécile Macé.

Due to sustained advocacy, one of the outcomes is that there is more financial support available for asthma programmes. Around 30 countries received funds through the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) under their tuberculosis (TB) application to implement the Practical Approach to Lung health (PAL) strategy, which is a part of the WHO Stop TB Strategy, which also includes among others, an asthma care component. Other health financing mechanisms need to consider supporting asthma care as well.

One of the methods for financing medicines is a revolving drug fund (RDF) in which after an initial capital investment, medicine supplies are replenished with monies collected from the sales of medicines. We should encourage donors to support the purchase of asthma medicines through initiatives like Revolving Funds. Revolving fund is a sustainable solution for asthma response, said Cécile Macé.

It will be strategic opportunity for the forthcoming United Nations (UN) Summit on non-communicable diseases (UN Summit on NCDs) in September 2011 to also address this need to ensure access to essential asthma medicines in low- and middle- income countries.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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Topix News, Berlin, Germany