The latest digital intervention in the dispensing and sale of pharmaceutical drugs is expected to significantly contribute to addressing concerns over the proliferation of fake drugs on the Ghanaian market, Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has said.
This is due to the platform’s direct link with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to approve all medicines dispensed by pharmacies, thereby weeding-out unlicenced pharmacy operations and reducing disparities in the cost of medicines. It is also expected to tackle some of the major administrative and delivery issues which affect the practice of pharmacy.
“The introduction of this cutting-edge health technology should help tackle at least four critical concerns of our healthcare system. These include reducing the pharmacist to patient ratio; improving confidentiality and privacy of patient medical records; minimising wrong self-diagnosis and self-medication; and reducing counterfeit and substandard medication.
“At the moment, Ghana’s current pharmacist to patient ratio of 1:10,000 is five times higher than the 1:2,000 recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is because of this that introducing the e-pharmacy platform will help improve the pharmacist-patient ratio by reducing the need for physical contact with pharmacists.
“This will lessen healthcare provider dependency, since subscribers can access vital health information with the help of a pharmacist without necessarily going to the pharmacy. Both patients and pharmacists will not need to travel far to receive or dispense medicines,” Dr. Bawumia stated.
Speaking at the launch of ‘e-pharmacy Policy and Guidelines’, the Vice President said government recognises the gaps in health infrastructure and is committed to addressing the situation.
“Innovations in the national health insurance system – such as deepening in the training of our human resources and recruitment of health personnel; One Constituency, One Ambulance programme; use of drones in the delivery of drugs; and the innovations in institutional digital frameworks of the health sector – are all major steps to achieving our goals.”
While tackling inadequate infrastructure in the health sector, he maintained that it is disheartening to see people spend so much time moving from one pharmacy to another in search of medication.
It is against this background that he said the innovation in improving pharmacy access through e-Pharmacy “can be a game-changer in safeguarding the future of our youth and ensuring rational and responsible access to medicines on a scale we have not yet been able to achieve”.
Also, he observed that the issue of counterfeit and sub-standard medicines is a menace to society; and therefore urged all pharmacists to continue their efforts in educating the public about the dangers of taking sub-standard and counterfeit medicines.
To this end, he insisted that at its full implementation the national e-pharmacy platform will enable the public to obtain genuine medicines from accredited pharmacies.
The global e-pharmacy market is worth about US$81billion today and is expected to grow to US$244billion by 2027. With the national e-pharmacy platform, Ghana will be part of this new pharmaceutical digital economy. The full operationalisation of the e-pharmacy is scheduled for next year – 2022; and when done Ghana will be one of a handful, possibly less than 10 countries, with a national scale e-pharmacy in the world.
The Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, said the e-pharmacy policy is part of a move by the ministry to leverage the power of technology in delivery of healthcare.
“The e-pharmacy infrastructure will therefore work together with other technological innovations in the various sectors of the healthcare system – thus creating an ecosystem of digital health systems communicating with each other to deliver the highest levels of healthcare to everyone, regardless of their location or economic class,” he stated.
He explained that the policy is designed to make quality pharmaceutical care easily accessible to all people living in Ghana.
Also, Registrar of the Pharmacy Council, Dr. Audu Rauf, said several strategies have been developed and rolled out with a view to ensuring that pharmaceutical care teams and pharmaceutical facilities are evenly distributed across the country to improve access to pharmaceutical service. Despite this, he noted, more needs to be done, given that a large portion of the population remains underserved.