Starting the National Electronic Pharmacy Platform (NEPP) makes Ghana a part of the booming new global pharmaceutical digital economy, which had a market size valued at US$52billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 19.5 percent from 2022 to 2030.
NEPP, according to the Vice President Dr. Mahammudu Bawumia, will boost pharmaceutical sales and generate revenue that can be channelled into research and other medical developments.
The increasing adoption of digital technologies and e-commerce, especially in the healthcare sector, is anticipated to propel overall growth he added.
This follows rising penetration of the Internet across the globe, an increasing number of tech-savvy consumers, and rising consumer preference for online purchases with a heightened focus on convenience as key factors boosting market growth, according to experts.
It is for this reason that Dr. Bawumia said government finds the National ePharmacy platform not only important in linking patients to the approved licenced pharmacies, registered pharmacists, and critical pharmaceutical services, but also a critical innovation in safeguarding the future of the youth, providing avenues for job creation, and digital start-up business innovations and economic growth.
NEPP is envisaged as enabling over 30 million Ghanaians to gain access to prescribed medicines in a more convenient, cost-effective and quality-assured manner, scaling over counterfeit and inferior medicines.
The Vice President was speaking at the National ePharmacy Platform launch, and observed that in the area of health the conversation on contactless pharmaceutical service dispensing has seen e-pharmacies emerge as a promising sector that offers convenience in pharmacy services for all, irrespective of location.
This is against the background that quite often people are faced with the difficulty of driving some distance just to find cost-efficient and reliable pharmacies to purchase medication.
This development, he noted, most times lead to pharmacy operators preying on the vulnerability of patients to inflate prices or offer fake substitutes for the medication sought.
NEPP is therefore intended to safely and securely make available medicines, reduce the burden of cost and save time.
“The vision is for NEPP to be fully integrated into all aspects of the digital health ecosystem where medicines are dispensed; such as LiTE wave by the Ghana Health Service, teaching hospital EMRs, health insurance claims and telemedicine solutions.
“With the regulatory environment that the platform will create, it will be possible to have many more drug options available without having to physically move to each pharmacy.
“This platform ties in beautifully with the vision of a national pricing strategy for pharmaceuticals and other health technologies in Ghana, to provide transparency on the pricing of medicines and ensure that prices of medicines are optimised for all stakeholders,” he stated.
Also speaking at the event, a representative of Minister of Health Kwaku Agyemang-Manu said the ePharmacy infrastructure will work together with other technological innovations in other sectors of the healthcare system to create an ecosystem of digital health systems.
On his part, Registrar of the Pharmaceutical Council of Ghana, Dr. Audu Rauf, acknowledged that the regulatory environment within which e-pharmacy operates is crucial in managing the risks associated with providing pharmaceutical services on a digital platform.
“Regulation of the pharmaceutical sector must keep pace with these rapidly evolving, dynamic markets which can operate with ease across national boundaries, and present distinct regulatory challenges,” he added.
He said regulators have to pay greater attention to this sector by ensuring the needed technical expertise to supervise it is available, and adapting the regulatory process to take advantage of the opportunities e-pharmacy provides for enhancing the traceability and transparency of medicine sales.
This has led to the introduction of ePharmacy, which contains measures to tackle counterfeit medicines and lists classes of medicines that cannot be ordered via the digital platform such as opioids, among others.