New Commonwealth network to support knowledge exchange on medicines and vaccine procurement

25 March 2024
New Commonwealth network to support knowledge exchange on medicines and vaccine procurement

Officials attending the inaugural meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Procurement Network (HOPN) have underscored the importance of supporting countries to secure essential vaccines, medicines, and other health products.

Created in collaboration with the Commonwealth Pharmacy Association (CPA), and with support from the Southern African Programme on Access to Medicines and Diagnostics and the World Health Organization (WHO), the network is designed to strengthen collaboration between Commonwealth health ministries and foster information-sharing.  

The HOPN has been endorsed by Commonwealth health ministers and will give member countries access to information databases, provide professional development programmes, offer opportunities to form partnerships and shape Commonwealth policies. 

Moderated by Prof. Zaheer Babar, Trustee of the CPA, the HOPN’s first meeting focused on best practices for establishing and maintaining strong supply chains. Christophe Rerat, the WHO’s Subregional Advisor in Medicines, Vaccines, and Health Technologies, provided expert guidance on legislation, regulation, and governance.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Head of Social Policy Development, Layne Robinson said the inaugural meeting was a safe space for countries to have frank discussions about their shared challenges. Pointing to a WHO report,showed huge health procurement financing gaps, he described the HOPN as an important resource for health ministries. He said:

“Not too long ago, we were faced with the unthinkable scenario of struggling to find vaccinations for populations ravished by a pandemic that had ambushed the globe and threatened health systems in both developed and developing countries. The stark reality is that one-third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicines, with most of them living in poor countries, while rising prices of new drugs are becoming a challenge in wealthy states.” 

“The Commonwealth’s aim is to create a robust network to ensure those tasked with securing life-saving medicines, vaccines and health technologies have access to the right information and resources.”

 Victoria Rutter, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Pharmacy Association, echoed Mr Robinson’s sentiments. She said:

“I began chairing the taskforce behind the Commonwealth’s voluntary information and price sharing database (VIPSD) in 2018. This initial work, in combination with a CPA-led scoping study of key stakeholders and issues around the Commonwealth, led to the birth of HOPN.” 
“It is great to see these meetings come to fruition, creating a space to discuss issues faced by our Commonwealth around the increasing challenges of accessing essential quality medicines. I am excited to see how these discussions progress and consider ways the Commonwealth network can help create collaborative solutions.”

The outcomes of the HOPN meeting were provided to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Health. The network’s concerns and agreements will also be presented to delegates attending the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in May.

Media contact

  • Charmaine Wright  Head of Media Relations, Commonwealth Secretariat
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