On June 2, 2017, the Caribbean Public Health Agency CRS and PAHO/WHO convened representatives of CARICOM governments to develop a roadmap for an approach to monitoring drug and vaccine safety and quality in the region.
Given the common histories and shared challenges among CARICOM States there has long been a desire to foster a regional approach because of the potential benefits. These systems are limited in many countries, and there is great advantage in pooling data and sharing information around problematic products to protect and promote the health of residents.
An effort to form a regional system called “VigiCarib” materialized a few years ago, but was not sustained. The establishment of CARPHA/CRS provides the needed action, and endorsement was given by Ministers of Health at CARICOM for CARPHA to take up the VigiCarib activity as soon as possible, in complementarity to its other CRS functions, including assessments of medicines.
The roadmap includes the following elements:
- The CARPHA/CRS will serve as the hub of the network which is a natural extension of its surveillance and monitoring functions, where CARICOM States can send reports of adverse events and suspected substandard and falsified medicines and vaccines via designated focal points.
- The CARPHA/CRS will then process these reports in collaboration with internal and external experts through the formation of a regionally comprised scientific advisory committee.
- Depending on the issue reported, the CARPHA/CRS will take action, such as testing suspect medicines, or recommending regulatory actions to CARICOM governments, as appropriate.
This effort will have at its core principles such as confidentiality and respect for national processes. Stakeholders hope to begin receiving reports in September of 2017, including by focusing on a group of pilot countries first.
There is much hope for the system in the future. It will create healthier and more productive societies and is a true embodiment of Caribbean Cooperation in Health.