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Monday 24th October 2016

Anti-graft campaign launched

31st October 2006

31102006_corruption.jpgThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a new initiative to assist governments to combat corruption by promoting greater transparency in medicines regulation and procurement.

Huge amounts of money — up to U.S.$50 billion — are spent every year on pharmaceutical products, making the market extremely vulnerable to corruption. Recent estimates have shown that as much as 25% of medicines which are procured can be lost to fraud, bribery and other corrupt practices.

WHO is establishing a group of anti-corruption and medicines experts from international institutions and countries to promote greater transparency.

Before reaching the patients who need them, medicines change hands several times in the complex production and distribution chain, providing ample opportunities for graft.

A recent report by Transparency International revealed that in one country, the value of two out of three medicines supplied through procurement was lost to corruption and fraud in hospitals.

Apart from the loss of resources and the danger posed to patients’ lives, corrupt practices also allow the entry into the medicines chain of counterfeit and substandard products, further endangering the health of communities.

Corruption can take the form of bribery of government officials to register medicines without the required information, or of government officials deliberately slowing down registration procedures to solicit payment from suppliers. Another manifestation is the use of favouritism rather than professional merit in selecting members of a medicines registration committee or in recruiting regulatory staff.

Thefts and embezzlement in the distribution chain, including in health care facilities, are also a problem.

WHO hopes its campaign will stimulate new laws against corruption and commensurate enforcement and punitive measures and promote standardized systems of checks and balances to limit or prevent abuse of medical procurement systems. It also seeks to encourage ethical practices through education and training.

The first step of the process will be to create a group of independent experts and advocates. Second, the organization will compile a database of best practice to promote good governance in the public pharmaceutical sector.

While corruption occurs in both high- and low-income countries, low-income countries are more vulnerable, and will receive the most support, according to WHO officials.

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