International initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President's Malaria Initiative have significantly increased availability and access to medicines in some parts of the developing world. Despite this, however, skills remain limited on quantifying needs for medications and ordering, receiving and storing medications appropriately; recording medications inventories accurately; distributing medications for use appropriately; and advising patients on how to use medications appropriately. The Regional Technical Resource Collaboration for Pharmaceutical Management (RTRC) has been established to help address the problem of skills shortage in pharmaceutical management in East Africa.
The initiative brings together academic institutions from four East African countries to participate in skills-building activities in pharmaceutical supply management. The initiative targeted the institutions' ability to conduct assessments of pharmaceutical supply management systems and to develop and implement effective skills-building programmes for pharmaceutical supply chain management.
Over a two-year period, the RTRC succeeded in conducting assessments of pharmaceutical supply management systems and practices in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. In 2006, the RTRC participated in a materials-development workshop in Kampala, Uganda, and contributed to the development of comprehensive HIV/AIDS pharmaceutical management training materials; these materials are now widely available in all four countries. In Tanzania and Uganda the RTRC has been involved with the training of health care workers in HIV/AIDS pharmaceutical management. In Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda the RTRC has been conducting operations research to find solutions to their countries' skills-shortage problems. Some of the interventions tested include applying and evaluating the effectiveness of a novel skills-building approach for pharmaceutical supply management.
Nurturing collaboration between regional institutions in resource-limited countries to build in-country skills in pharmaceutical supply management appears to be an effective intervention. Support from local programmes and technical assistance from organizations and institutions with the necessary expertise is critical for success, particularly at inception. The skills acquired by local institutions can be incorporated into both pre-service and in-service teaching curricula. This ensures long-term availability of skills in-country. The ability of trained institutions to mobilize their own resources for skills-building activities is crucial for the success and sustainability of these programmes.