World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center in Pharmaceutical Policy

Boston University’s Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD) is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Center in Pharmaceutical Policy.

The CGHD is currently collaborating with the WHO in a series of topics such as intellectual property rights, governance and local production of essential medicines and other pharmaceuticals. It also assists WHO in promoting quality of pharmaceutical care in health delivery systems with focus on low- and middle-income countries.

Several students in the BUSPH Pharmaceuticals Program are carrying out their internship with the WHO, which provides them with valuable experience of working at international organizations and supports WHO in various activities.

The WHO Collaborating Center in Pharmaceutical Policy:

  • conducts health and pharmaceutical policy analyses to inform WHO’s Essential Drugs and Medicines Program;
  • develops methods for the evaluation of policy and behavior change interventions; and
  • provides a forum for exchanging global drug policy and pharmaceutical behavior change research results and for identifying new issues in the field. In addition, staff and trainees of the center’s educational programs constitute a rich resource for WHO of scientific personnel available for short-term research activities in member countries.

Examples of Our Collaboration

Priority Medicines for Europe and the World

Faculty from Center for Global Health & Development (Warren Kaplan, Veronika Wirtz) are supporting the WHO Essential Medicines Program (EMP) in carrying out a consultation of the European Commission in order to prepare a public health-based medicines development agenda. A second objective for the consultation is to develop a systematic methodology for priority setting to guide allocation of funding for biomedical research and development.  Funding: European Commission (DG Sanco).

Good Governance in Medicines (GGM)

The Good Governance for Medicines Programme goal is to promote transparency and accountability in the pharmaceutical sector of low and middle income countries. Participating countries conduct transparency assessments to indicate strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to identify areas where governance reforms are needed. Taryn Vian was invited as an expert to attend a WHO workshop on Transparency and Good Governance in the Pharmaceutical Sector..

Linking “Local Production” and Access to Medicines

This joint WHO/UNCTAD and International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICSTD) project is entitled “Improving access to medicines in developing countries through local production and related technology transfer.” Click here for more information. Phase I of the project identified the main challenges and obstacles to local production in developing countries. It also provided evidence-based recommendations on how to increase the feasibility and sustainability of local production and technology transfer initiatives.  Phase II will implement various activities based on an understanding of these challenges. Warren Kaplan produced a report and a peer-reviewed article (W.A. Kaplan, LS Ritz, M Vitello. Local production of medical technologies and its effect on access in low and middle income countries: a systematic literature review. South Med Rev. 2011 December; 4(2): 51–61.)  CGHD faculty, in collaboration with Health Action International, are pilot testing a methodology to measure the link between domestic production of medicines and access to medicines. This pilot study will take place in Tanzania and Ethiopia (Marg Ewen: Health Action International/Warren Kaplan: Boston University School of Public Health, March-December 2013)

Boston University/WHO Internships: Students Contributing to Generation of Information and Knowledge Transfer

Boston University School of Public Health has an interdisciplinary Pharmaceutical Program designed to train graduate students in policy assessment, analysis, and implementation. Several students each year travel to Geneva or work in other collaborating partner organizations to promote effective medicines policy reform. Through their internships, BU students are contributing to a work plan which is agreed between WHO EMP and CCPP. Examples from past students include:

  • A report on the medicines regulatory authorities (MRAs) of 12 low and middle income countries.
  • A report on the Impact of the 2008 Economic Recession on the Pharmaceutical Sector in the Baltic Countries. The project synthesized data on consumption of pharmaceuticals to assess the impact of the economic recession on the pharmaceutical sector of Estonia and Latvia.
  • An analysis of China’s national Essential Medicines List (EML), compared to 22 provincial EML and the WHO EML. The selection process and types of essential medicines were different between the WHO Model List and China EMLs (Esprit Ma). The WHO Model List employs a systematic transparent approach with evidence based selection; while, China follows the views of experts on selection of EMs.

Collaborating with Health Delivery Systems to Improve Quality of Pharmaceutical Care with Focus on Low and Middle Income Countries

Faculty from CGHD collaborate with health system partners in low and middle income countries (LMIC)s to plan, implement, and evaluate pharmaceutical systems strengthening activities.  Many of these activities involve active collaborations with EMP and other WHO programs, faculty from other universities and health care institutions.  One example is the work of Chris Gill who collaborated with colleagues at WHO on a major initiative to reduce childhood deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhea–the Diarrhea Global Action Plan project (DGAP), which builds upon work pioneered by WHO for the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea project (GAPPD).

Health Information Technology

Increasingly, health and pharmaceutical systems in LMIC incorporate electronic information technology in information exchange, patient management, and intervention delivery.  CCPP faculty, including  Chris Gill and Jim Wolff, have worked to develop M-Health and E-Health approaches in a number of collaborations, including the WHO local production study (Kaplan). M-Health supports the delivery of instant messages which can help to gather medicines prices and availability information. Low cost technologies for detecting substandard drugs have potential to greatly improve the safety of drug supply. Another example of the Department’s work on promoting the use of M-Health to improve the use of medicines is the work done by Don Thea using mobile phones to shorten the time from diagnosis to treatment of children with HIV. His work part of a larger collaboration of UNICEF uses SMS text messaging to transmit HIV test results from a central lab in Zambia’s capitol Lusaka back to rural health clinic staff and hence to the clients themselves. This approach has reduced the turn around for infant diagnosis of HIV by 6-8 weeks.

For more information on the Collaborating Center, please contact Warren Kaplan, Chris Gill or Veronika Wirtz.