Monash establishes new initiative to tackle inadequate access to safe and effective medicines in low-and middle-income countries

A team of leading drug experts from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) have established The Monash Quality of Medicines (QoM) Initiative with the aim to help address health inequity in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) by improving medicines quality.

Lack of access to safe and effective medicines is a considerable health issue in LMICs, where patients are at an unacceptably high risk of encountering poor-quality and falsified medicines.

The QoM Initiative, co-founded by Pete Lambert and Professor Michelle McIntosh from MIPS, has been made possible due to a generous grant from The Ripple Foundation. This seed funding will enable the QoM Initiative to establish a dedicated resource to bring world-leading pharmaceutical expertise to address issues of medicines quality and better understand the prevalence and causes of substandard medicines. Future plans include providing analytical capability to country partners to conduct post-marketing surveillance studies, capacity building with local regulators and ministries of health and generating scientific evidence to support global and local policy change.

The QoM Initiative will leverage Monash’s existing networks established through the Inhaled Oxytocin Project, also co-led by Pete Lambert and Professor Michelle McIntosh, to first address the area of greatest burden - maternal and newborn health essential medicines.

Director of the Initiative, Mr Lambert, said that the unacceptable number of substandard or falsified medicines in LMICs can be attributed to a number of challenges including poor pharmaceutical governance, limited national healthcare budgets, weak technical capacity, and supply-chain challenges.

“Poor-quality and substandard medicines have disastrous consequences for communities - for instance, studies indicate that poor-quality antimalarials and antimicrobials alone cost the lives of over 250,000 children every year,” said Mr Lambert.

“Thanks to the generous investment from The Ripple Foundation, the QoM Initiative is now positioned to apply the pharmaceutical science expertise at Monash across a specialist network of global partners with established LMIC links. Collectively we are dedicated to improving maternal and newborn medicines quality in the sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Asia-Pacific regions. Longer term, the goal is to expand on these regions and also target medicines beyond the maternal and newborn area.”

Director of MIPS, Professor Chris Porter, said the team behind the QoM Initiative are ideally positioned to drive change in this space.

“With historical experience on maternal health, the Inhaled Oxytocin team has established a prominent international reputation in supporting global efforts to improve medicines quality. This exciting new venture will draw on this knowledge to expand this skill base to more broadly improve access to safe and effective medicines in LMICs - a human right that every child and adult is entitled to across the globe,” said Professor Porter.

Monash is one of the top universities in the world for Pharmacy and Pharmacology, ranking #2 in the 2023 QS World University Rankings by Subject and #1 in Australia and Asia-Pacific.

The Ripple Foundation is a philanthropic fund whose name derives from the ‘ripple effect’, referring to the process by which lifting one individual out of disadvantage can ‘ripple’ through a community and beyond.