The World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) for Governance, Accountability, and Transparency in the Pharmaceutical Sector based at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy has recently been given approval by the WHO to continue advancing its work for another four years. 

Corruption in the health sector is a global issue; one that has been recognized by the WHO and other United Nations agencies as a barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to health, such as Universal Health Coverage. The WHO CC will continue to advance research and education and knowledge dissemination on issues related to the pharmaceutical component of of health systems anti-corruption, transparency and accountability (ACTA) in collaboration with WHO.

Launched in 2015, the WHO CC is led by Professor Jillian Kohler, a recognized global expert on anti-corruption, accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical and health systems.

“Corruption is a well-known threat to development, economic growth and thwarts efforts to improve global access to medicines,” says Kohler. “In health care corruption can be pervasive and instances can occur in health system governance and regulation, marketing and product distribution, and in procurement and workforce management,” she said.

In February 2019, as part of her efforts to build a global network brings together anti-corruption efforts and improve transparency and accountability in health systems around the world, Professor Kohler co-convened a consultation in Geneva attended by over 100 stakeholders including policy makers, government officials, researchers and representatives from civil society from around the globe to focus on the issue of how to implement anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in the health sector. The Consultation was led by three United Nations institutions: the WHO, the Global Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme, emphasizing the importance of this issue.  Professor Kohler also developed a new cross-faculty, graduate-level course titled “Diagnosing Corruption in the Health Sector and Anti-Corruption Policies and Tools.” These were among many successful initiatives, seminars and workshops led by the WHO CC between 2015 and 2019.

Looking ahead to the next four years

Over the next four years, Professor Kohler, working with the WHO CC fellows from across the University of Toronto at faculties including the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the Faculty of Law, and the Rotman School of Management, as well as other universities, plans to continue efforts to advance knowledge and practice on anti-corruption in the health and pharmaceutical sectors.  

“While pharmaceutical products are essential to improve health outcomes, the pharmaceutical sector characterized by a high level of secrecy, opacity and conflict of interests,” said Marc-André Gagnon, associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy & Administration and a Fellow at the WHO CC for Governance, Accountability, and Transparency in the Pharmaceutical Sector.  “Imagine a market in which the risks and benefits of products are not properly disclosed, the prices are confidential and conflicts of interests exist between buyers and sellers. The works of the WHO Collaborating Centre is essential is such context,” he said.

Both students and faculty members will have opportunities to participate in policy workshops, seminars and training on ACTA issues in the years to come.  Upcoming events include a policy workshop on transparency and accountability related to the opioid epidemic and a course which will train participants risk management techniques related to anti-corruption efforts in the health sector.

Published: 12-18-19

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