This course is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts of the supply chain management of medicines and medical products, in the context of low and middle income countries' public health systems. Many of the issues of healthcare quality and safety are consequences of a poor supply chain management of medicines. It is estimated that, globally, an average 25% of the total health expenditure is spent on medicines, with poorer countries spending as much as 30%. Knowledge of the supply chain cycle of medicines and practical skills to enhance its management are important, not only for staff in leadership positions but also for health workers in general. Supply chain management activities are fundamental to any health programme performance and all personnel involved, whether it's an inventory manager in a warehouse, a pharmacist in a health facility or a procurement officer at the central medical store, must have a good understanding of the basic principles of supply chain management.

Course programme

There are many challenges ensuing from the increasing number of stakeholders in the health sector of developing countries. Different stakeholders often have different funding mechanisms and reporting requirements, which makes quantification of essential medicines and medical supplies more complicated. The course addresses the challenges faced during the forecasting and quantification of essential medicines, including HIV/AIDS medicines, anti-malarials and TB medicines. It aims at building up the participants’ capacity to master the forecasting and quantification tasks and to decide for the appropriate procurement planning process based on a profound analysis of the data.

Course programme

Procurement plays a critical role in ensuring the availability of essential quality-assured medicines at all times at an affordable price for the people that need them.

Often international donor organisations and governmental organisations are involved in funding medical programs, resulting in the need of professionally run procurement processes. This course pays special attention to meeting the most common donor requirements and public procurement regulations.

The course guides the student through all steps of the procurement process, such as supplier selection, how to select the best value offer, contracting, quality assurance, measuring supplier performance and much more.

The objective of the course is to provide students solid knowledge about and a good understanding of the procurement process that will help them implement and/or professionalise procurement processes.

The procurement course is suitable for procurement/purchase officers, logistic officers, health officers and professionals with a responsibility in procurement, members of tender committees, pharmacists, program managers and supply chain managers in the public and private sector.

Course programme

Many of the challenges related to healthcare quality and stock-out situations in low and middle income countries are consequences of poor warehouse management of medicines. Appropriate warehousing of medicines, health products and medical laboratory supplies is an essential component of the supply chain management system, required to maintain the integrity of the health products and prevent stock-out or overstocking at any given time.

This course is designed to introduce you to good warehousing practices for medicines and health products within the health system. We will look at warehouse operations in detail covering the receipt, storage and dispatch of essential medicines. Other topics directly related to warehousing are health and safety, waste management and inventory control. Special focus will also be placed on monitoring and evaluation indicators for warehousing, quality assurance, and rational use.

There is currently a strong momentum for the strengthening of the local pharmaceutical sector in developing and emerging markets. Regional and national strategies to promote local pharmaceutical production in line with international standards are being developed. Besides 'modern' or 'western' medicines, this also includes herbal and traditional medicines - in line with their increasing popularity and market shares worldwide.

While the rationale for local production is simple - including factors such as independence from donor programmes which may not run forever, more steady supply chains, and greater control to local regulators - there is still a long way to go and markets are tough... Local companies, especially in low and middle income countries, often face substantial hurdles.

One of the big challenges is the lack of a qualified human resources base in the manufacturing sector of medicines and other healthcare products. In particular, there is need for skilled personnel for quality units (quality assurance, quality control) and other GMP relevant areas. Costs for bringing in experts from abroad are high. Combined with other challenges, local manufacturers often struggle to compete and even survive. Not being in line with international quality standards, they are prevented from passing WHO prequalification, participating in international tenders, and entering international markets.

Moreover, the national medicines regulatory agencies (NMRAs) of these countries experience a shortage too of qualified staff in GMP, GMP inspection and dossier evaluation. This creates difficulties for the NMRAs to enforce internationally acceptable regulatory requirements (including GMP standards) thereby preventing the availability of affordable quality generics for the majority of their low income population groups.

Traditional and herbal medicines have great potential and can enrich the modern medical landscape – given that they are safe, effective and quality-assured. Despite the requirement to follow GMP standards for production of traditional and herbal medicines, not all actively producing manufacturers, especially in developing countries, comply with international GMP standards - with potential serious consequences for the health of consumers.

This e-learning course introduces Good Manufacturing Practices for medicines and healthcare products, including herbal and traditional medicines. The course focuses on WHO GMP standards and requirements as one of the major GMPs. Course participants will learn about GMP requirements, including procedural, organizational and infrastructural aspects, as well as about the GMP inspection process. They will be able to critically analyse and implement basic GMP requirements in their daily working routine in the manufacturing and regulatory environment. The participants will practice course contents in quizzes, assignments, and discussion forums.

In the end, these capacity building measures in the area of GMP and GMP inspection will make participants from local manufacturers and national regulatory authorities better equipped for production and regulation of quality assured essential medicines and healthcare products, in line with national and international standards.

Ensuring the quality of medicines is a major public health concern. The emergence of substandard and counterfeit medicines, coupled with inefficient supply chain systems, not only poses a risk of negative health outcomes but also leads to economic losses and lack of trust in the health system. To address these issues and develop evidence-based strategies, it is important that people at all levels, from policy makers to primary healthcare workers appreciate and comprehend the need for effective QA systems.

This course will introduce you to the concepts and main principles of quality assurance, and will develop further skills and knowledge in different aspects of quality assurance such as pharmaceutical regulation, pharmaco-vigilance and quality control of medicines.