Brazil’s Community Pharmacy program has already distributed over 960
thousand remedies in 23 establishments located in the cities of Goiânia, Rio de
Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador.
The program, which was inaugurated by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on June 7, is a component of the Ministry of Health’s policy to broaden popular access to medications it considers essential. One of the goals is to help people who find treatment difficult due to the high price of remedies.
The Ministry of Health plans to increase the number of pharmacies to 100 by the end of the year.
“We have over 60 municipalities that have formally declared their intention to adhere to the program, and nearly 20 new pharmacies are under construction,” explained the National Coordinator of the Community Pharmacy program, Jamaira Giora.
The pharmacies stock 89 medicines, which are obtained from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, which is an organ linked to the Ministry, public pharmaceutical laboratories, or the private sector.
The prices are 40-90% lower than those charged by commercial drugstores. According to Jamaira, the medications in highest demand so far are for the treatment of heart disorders and diabetes.
“We operate with a list of medications that cover over 80% of illness treatment needs,” she affirmed.
Anybody can purchase medicines in the community pharmacies, provided they present a doctor’s prescription.
The most solicited remedies are for the treatment of hypertension and diabetes.
“The program serves the entire population, but it is directed most of all at people unable to pay a lot of money for their medicines and who often discontinue treatment,” affirms Giora.
According to the National Council of Secretaries of Health (Conass), 51.7% of the Brazilian population fits this description.
Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) demonstrate that health care is fourth on the list of Brazilian family expenses and that medicines can consume as much as 61% of the family’s health budget.
According to the Ministry of Health, in its first month of operation, the community pharmacy network distributed approximately 10 thousand vials and 173 thousand tablet or capsule strips, sold to the public at cost. It is estimated that between 400 and 700 people are served each day by the community pharmacies.
The most popular drug was acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) in 100 mg. doses, used as an auxiliary medicine to treat hypertension. Its price in the community pharmacies is 88% lower than at regular drugstores.
In addition to medications for hypertension, the community pharmacies also offer remedies for asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, depression, epilepsy, gastritis, arterial hypertension, and cardiac insufficiency.
Besides the creation of a network of pharmacies – the goal is to install 100 throughout the country by the end of the year – the program also plans to subsidize the price of twelve medications sold in regular pharmacies across the country and used in the treatment of diabetes and hypertension, in addition to reducing the sales tax (ICMS) on about 2,800 medications, beginning in 2005.
The community pharmacies will not have medicines for diseases that require special treatment, such as Aids, cancer, and schizophrenia. For these diseases, the government has specific programs in which the medications are distributed for free.