Checking on quality and availability of the 13 life-saving commodities

Checking on quality and availability of the 13 life-saving commodities
Nursing sister-in-charge Rumana Rashid helps a mother to breastfeed her first child for the first time in the maternity ward at the referral hospital Garissa Provincial Hospital in Kenya, in March 2011. ©UNICEF/Nesbitt


The World Health Organisation’ Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products just released the results of two surveys that it conducted for the UN Commission on Life-saving Commodities, to gain a better understanding of the quality and availability of the 13 essential commodities it identified.

The first survey on regulation and procurement found that many countries had the formal structures and procedures required to purchase products and to control their quality, but staff and funding limitations affected their operational efficiency. Registration coverage was reasonable for most products, although none of 22 respondent countries had all 18 UNCoLSC-recommended products on their registers.

There were many brands of most injectable antibiotics, but the choice was much more limited for some other commodities. More than half of the registered products identified in the survey came from India and China; 11% were manufactured locally. Most UNCoLSC-recommended commodities were being procured; some but not all were tracked by logistics management information systems (LMIS) at least at the central level. In most countries, and for the majority of commodities, at least one stock-out had occurred at the central level during the three years preceding the survey.

The second survey, on quality control, found that of total of 204 samples, 157 (77%) complied fully with the specifications set for the survey. Of the remaining 47 that failed one or more of the tests, five had extreme deviations in content and/or dissolution which were likely to affect the therapeutic effect of the product.

The results were analyzed in collaboration with the regulatory authorities of the participating countries. Regulatory action was taken in line with the survey findings, and jointly agreed survey recommendations were adopted.

These are the first surveys of this kind to be conducted since the inception of the UN Commission.

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