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WHO and Tanzania Ministry of Health collaborate to enhance availability of critical medications for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease

Tanzania is leading the way in the African region in the implementation of the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders 2022-2031 (IGAP). Collaborating with the WHO, the Tanzania Ministry of Health is focused on addressing barriers to medication access and interventions to enhance access for epilepsy and Parkinson disease, with input from local stakeholders including individuals with personal experience, healthcare providers, and representatives from civil society.

Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, WHO Representative to Tanzania, highlighted that epilepsy and Parkinson disease have a significant impact on disability in Tanzania. The efforts being made to address medication access for these conditions at various levels are commendable, setting a positive example for other countries aiming to achieve the goals outlined in IGAP.

In May 2023, Tanzania hosted a workshop on IGAP implementation, sharing the findings of an assessment on medication access for neurological disorders and laying the groundwork for national-level implementation. Focus areas included epilepsy and Parkinson disease, with actions developed to tackle barriers to medication access. A follow-up meeting in September 2023 in Moshi ensured progress evaluation and continuity of actions.

Dr. Omary Ubuguyu, Assistant Director for NCDs at the Ministry of Health, emphasized Tanzania’s commitment to collaborating with the WHO to ensure individuals with neurological disorders can access and afford necessary medications for treatment. Prioritizing access to care and support is key for the population.

The Ministry of Health has made significant strides, including establishing a national coordination committee for epilepsy and other neurological disorders to provide support to policymakers and maintain the priority of these disorders. The Medical Stores Department is undertaking special procurements of medicines for neurological disorders, addressing the issue of lack of access to medications such as levodopa/carbidopa for Parkinson disease and various anti-seizure medications.

Notably, Tanzania’s National Health Insurance Fund package 2024 now covers several medicines for neurological disorders, marking a major advancement in including Parkinson disease and epilepsy as public health priorities in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, approximately 450,000 individuals live with epilepsy and 36,000 with Parkinson disease, yet diagnosis and treatment gaps remain high. Only a fraction of those with epilepsy receive treatment, highlighting the need for improved access to care. Global efforts, such as those outlined in IGAP, aim for 80% of countries to provide essential medicines and technologies for managing neurological disorders in primary care by 2031. Tanzania’s initiatives show progress towards achieving this target.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO).

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