Increasing transparency and accountability in national pharmaceutical systems

Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume 96, Number 11, November 2018, 729-796

Increasing transparency and accountability in national pharmaceutical systems
– Anne Paschke, Deirdre Dimancesco, Taryn Vian, Jillian C Kohler & Gilles Forte
Access to safe, effective, good-quality medicines can be compromised by poor pharmaceutical system governance. This system is particularly vulnerable to inefficiencies and to losses from corruption, because it involves a complex mix of actors with diverse responsibilities. A high level of transparency and accountability is critical for minimizing opportunities for fraud and leakage. In the past decade, the Good Governance for Medicines programme and the Medicines Transparency Alliance focused on improving accountability in the pharmaceutical system and on reducing its vulnerability to corruption by increasing transparency and encouraging participation by a range of stakeholders. Experience with these two programmes revealed that stakeholders interpreted transparency and accountability in a range of different ways. Moreover, programme implementation and progress assessments were complicated by a lack of clarity about what information should be disclosed by governments and about how greater transparency can strengthen accountability for access to medicines. This article provides a conceptual understanding of how transparency can facilitate accountability for better access to medicines. We identified three categories of information as prerequisites for accountability: (i) standards and commitments; (ii) decisions and results; and (iii) consequences and responsive actions. Examples are provided for each. Conceptual clarity and practical examples of the information needed to ensure accountability can help policy-makers identify the actions required to increase transparency and accountability in their pharmaceutical systems. We also discuss factors that can hinder or facilitate the use of information to hold to account those responsible for improving access to medicines.