Comparative assessment of medicine procurement prices in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

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Abstract

Objectives: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the main primary healthcare provider for 4.9 million Palestinian refugees, spent USD18.3 million on essential medicines dispensed free-of-charge through clinics in five areas of operation (‘fields’): Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank (2010). Faced with budget contraints and an increasing demand for medicines to treat chronic conditions, the objective of our study was to assess UNRWA’s medicine procurement prices to see if savings could be possible. Methods: In July 2011, data was collected from UNRWA headquarters in Jordan. Price analyses focused on the top 80 medicines by value, accounting for 93% of pharmaceutical expenditure from the General Fund, with comparisons to international, regional and national references. Prices were also compared for the few medicines procured both through UNRWA’s central tender (centrally) and by the fields directly (locally). Results: Central procurement prices did not differ markedly from reference prices: median ratios of UNRWA prices to Management Sciences for Health’s International Drug Price Indicator Guide, Jordan’s Joint Procurement Department, Gulf Cooperation Council, and IDA Foundation bulk packs were 0.99, 1.00, 0.98 and 1.12 respectively. Applying the lowest comparator price to five comparatively higher priced medicines would yield savings of USD1.4 million. Local procurements were generally less cost-effective than central tender procurement, with notable differences across fields and medicines. Conclusions: Overall, UNRWA’s procurement prices were competitive despite the relatively small quantities procured. Regular monitoring of procurement prices and quantities is needed in order to make informed decisions. Our evaluation also underscores the heavy burden of antidiabetic medicines and antimicrobials on UNRWA procurement expenditure.

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Ewen, M., Al Sakit, M., Saadeh, R., Laing, R., Vialle-Valentin, C., Seita, A., & Bunders, J. (2014). Comparative assessment of medicine procurement prices in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice, 7(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1186/2052-3211-7-13

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