World Pharmacopoeias support public health during COVID-19 pandemic

Scientists and health professionals worldwide have rarely been under as much pressure as they have been these past few months. This has led to unprecedented collaborative efforts using exceptional means on a global scale, including amongst world pharmacopoeias.

A pharmacopoeia is a legally-binding collection of standards and quality specifications for medical products. The World Health Organization (WHO) organizes official meetings entitled International Meeting of World Pharmacopoeias for participation of all WHO Member States’ pharmacopoeias worldwide, be they national, regional or international. During these meetings, the pharmacopoeias share important news and strengthen their co-operation to improve public health outcomes for patients.

The 12th International Meeting of World Pharmacopoeias (IMWP) was hosted by WHO and met virtually from 22-24 February 2021. Sixty-one participants attended from 18 pharmacopoeias, representing 51 pharmacopoeias and pharmacopoeial authorities globally (out of the 60 listed in the Index of world pharmacopoeias and pharmacopoeial authorities compiled by WHO (Index of World Pharmacopoeias and Pharmacopoeial authorities). These pharmacopoeias work together to support the global public health response to the pandemic, providing support to manufacturers, regulators and stakeholders on medicines, all critical to the COVID-19 response. The availability and use of well-conceived international norms and standards – for performing clinical trials, producing a vaccine, a therapeutic, a medical device or diagnostics test or testing of their quality – are essential to ensure a successful outcome for a patient.

A major outcome of the collaboration is the global pharmacopoeial alert system initiated by the Brazilian, British, Chinese, European, Indian, International, Japanese, Mexican, United States and Vietnamese pharmacopoeias and other global pharmacopoeial partners. This has resulted in a dashboard listing of COVID-19 investigated medicines mapped to available monographs published in the various world pharmacopoeias. This listing is now available to allow easy identification of quality control specifications for therapeutics under consideration for COVID-19 treatment. Link: Health product and policy standard.

In addition, a number of world pharmacopoeias have increased the accessibility of supportive pharmacopoeial texts by making these freely available via their websites (these website addresses are included within the list).

The collaborative efforts of this group of world pharmacopoeias have brought forth the development of a new type of test specification under the umbrella of this IMWP. The pilot (the first specifications of this type) will be the IMWP monographs for Favipiravir. All related information will be made available on the WHO IMWP website. This will be an excellent initiative, making sure that test specifications are available and free of charge for those who need them during an emergency situation, such as the current pandemic. It will allow for quality checks and will be a tool to help prevent substandard and falsified products circulating.

In conclusion, the IMWP has again proven to be an invaluable forum and platform for world pharmacopoeias in their response to public health needs.

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