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CEI-ES hosts Policy Dialogue on “Building Resilient Pharmaceutical and Health Systems” with WHO

Over two insightful days (18-19 April), Trieste became the focal point for vital discussions as high-level representatives from health ministries and the healthcare sector of CEI Member States, WHO, EU and other international experts gathered for the WHO/CEI Policy Dialogue titled "Building resilient pharmaceutical and health product systems", organised jointly by the CEI, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe), and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

Roberto Antonione, CEI Secretary-General, alongside Riccardo Riccardi, Regional Minister of Friuli Venezia-Giulia for Health, Social Policies, and Disabilities; Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, Director of the WHO/Europe Division of Country Health Policies and Systems; Fabio Scano, special envoy of the WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge for Western Balkans, and Nina Kodelja, CEI Deputy Secretary-General, inaugurated the event, in which participants addressed the challenges and potential solutions to ensuring sustainable, equitable and affordable supplies of quality medicines and healthcare products.

In particular, Antonione and Azzopardi-Muscat both emphasised the importance of the WHO/CEI partnership, which had originated during the Covid-19 pandemic and continued with other joint initiatives, such as the implementation of the Roadmap for the health and well-being in the Western Balkans, to the joint endeavour - the policy dialogue. They underlined that this partnership was particularly vital for engaging the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. In fact, it is a first policy dialogue WHO organises together with a regional Organisation such as the CEI.

Azzopardi Muscat also underlined the importance of this cooperation at the current moment, considering also the conflicts that are affecting several countries in the world, to continue improving the quality of life and health of the citizens, by reducing medicine shortages, supporting health care workforce and by ensuring adequate financing to support related initiatives.

International experts shared their knowledge, on how to act to ensure safe, effective and quality medicines, including regulatory systems, anticipate and address medicine shortages, as well as pricing, reimbursement and procurement of innovative medicines to protect populations from financial hardships. The CEI countries’ representatives participated in group discussions with their own national experiences and best practices, suggesting further topics to be explored and expressing their strong interest in cross-country collaboration.

The interlocutors underscored the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing common challenges faced by member countries such as addressing medicines shortages and joint procurement, highlighting the imperative of evidence-based policies and innovative approaches to ensure equitable access to healthcare for all segments of society.

At the closing of the event, the participants reflected on the wealth of knowledge exchanged, reaffirming their commitment to fostering resilient pharmaceutical and health systems also through a regional approach. Several countries underlined the importance of the WHO Global Benchmarking Tools (GBT) for evaluation of national regulatory systems as an opportunity to make a change in the national health systems and to receive support and training, that would be even more important for candidate countries on their accession path.  Interest in drug costs reimbursement and in-depth exchange among countries was also appreciated by several attendees who will explore further the topic in their own country settings. New topics for future policy dialogues have also been raised, expressing the need for such exchanges and learning opportunities, to look back at the progress achieved thanks to such discussions.  

In their concluding remarks both Azzopardi and Kodelja expressed their satisfaction with the participation of numerous CEI countries in the policy dialogue, that showed the relevance and urgency of the topic for the region and the will to share knowledge.

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