September 7, 2018

Pharmaceutical Cold Chain Optimization: WHO’s Plan to Improve Access for Vaccines and Medications

Written by Garret Weigel | Pharmacy Safety, Supply Chain

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency concerned with international public health, has recently published a report, Towards Access 2030. This report provides a strategic long-term framework for increasing global access to high-quality, safe, and affordable vaccines and medical products, in addition to addressing expectations for 2030 regulations through end-to-end supply chain optimization.


WHO leadership is confident that achieving these goals is possible by 2030, at the same time recognizing the following challenges:

  • Rising prices of new pharmaceuticals
  • Rapidly changing markets for health technologies
  • Lack of market incentives for older medicines


Although these issues put increasing pressure on the capacity for health systems to provide comprehensive health care, WHO believes that innovation in medical R&D has resulted in new products that, with increased access, can bring long-term improvements to public health. Let’s take a closer look at this important initiative.


Vision, Mission and Strategy

WHO envisions a world where every man, woman, and child has access to essential medicines and vaccines they need to lead healthy and productive lives. The mission of Towards Access 2030, therefore, is to improve and sustain access to quality health products in order to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.


Among the several pillars of WHO’s strategy, one relates directly to regulation and procurement along the supply chain: “Strengthening regulatory capacity and practices to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of products and improve the efficiency of regulatory systems to secure health gains.”


The Importance of Effective Regulation

Effective regulation of vaccines and medicines ensures that safe and effective health products reach all global populations. As part of this effort, WHO is promoting “smart regulation” using both Good Regulatory and Good Reliance Practices that will best position regulators to deal successfully with current challenges. This strategy will work on two fronts:

  • Responding to and minimizing health risks from medical products both by improving product safety and vigilance, and by expanding information systems
  • Establishing and maintaining international standards for better medicines and health products by using unified product standards and global nomenclature


The Globalization of the Supply Chain

The WHO report acknowledges that important changes are on the horizon of the global landscape regarding procurement and product supply. Therefore, a priority for 2030 is developing governance mechanisms and legislation to ensure a supply chain for medical products. This strategy includes:

  • Fostering efficient procurement, stock management, and distribution systems
  • Ensuring the integrity of supply systems
  • Strengthening the development of Quality Assurance systems
  • Monitoring of substandard and falsified products
  • Improving data collection on supply management


The Role of the Public Sector

WHO recognizes that, among key stakeholders who can make their Access 2030 plan a reality, the private sector will play a fundamental role. WHO will engage in regular dialog with executive management to help move forward their access and regulatory agendas. Together, WHO and the private sector can work to overcome supply chain challenges and create innovative solutions for comprehensive global health.


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