India hosts 4th WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices

The 4th WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices ‘Increasing Access to Medical Devices’ was organised from 13-15 December 2018 at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

Health technologies are essential for a functioning health system. The 3-day global forum attended by more than 1000 delegates from over 90 countries, builds upon the work that was accomplished at the 1st Global Forum in Bangkok in 2010, the 2nd in Geneva in 2013, and the 3rd also in Geneva in 2017. During the course of the three days, several dignitaries addressed the delegates on various key facets pertaining to medical devices. Here’s an overview.

Day 1 – 13 December 2018

Mr Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh flagged off the proceedings. In his address, Mr Naidu stated that the, “Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ) envisioned to put India on the global map of high-end medical equipment production and make health care products affordable and accessible, not only for India, but for the world at large.”

Dr Jitendar Sharma, MD and CEO of AMTZ said, ““The Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone is a state-of-the-art infrastructure facility for quality and safe medical devices. There is a clear focus on bringing in innovation and providing easy and affordable access to health care products”.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India said, “Making health technology accessible and affordable is a key WHO priority, globally and in India. The challenge is to ensure that access to high quality affordable health products becomes a reality. WHO is committed to supporting governments in this endeavour”.

Ms Adriana Velazquez, Senior Advisor on Medical Devices, WHO Headquarter, Geneva said, “The goals of the forum are sharing WHO tools and guidelines; sharing country level challenges; best practices on regulation, assessment and management of medical devices; and innovative technologies.”

Day 2 – 14 December 2018

At the inauguration of the event, Mr Suresh Parbhu, Hon’ble Union Minister Commerce Industry and Civil Aviation said, “The medical devices industry is the industry of tomorrow. The Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone is creating an ecosystem to provide a unique go-to platform for start-ups as well as existing manufacturers.”

Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, the Hon’ble Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, in his address said, “The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana reflects the strong commitment of the Government of India to the 2030 SDG agenda.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO in his video message shared that, “WHO is committed to increasing access to medical devices that are appropriate, affordable, acceptable and available, but we can’t do this alone — we need everyone’s support — governments, academia, civil society and industry”.

“The standard setting and quality benchmarks for medical devices and diagnostics in national and global markets are also being debated in the context of developing an Essential Diagnostics List (EDL) at WHO and in India. The EDL initiative will complement the work on essential medicines worldwide enabling the 2030 health goals,” said Dr. V.K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, Government of India.

Day 3 – 15 December 2018

The forum successfully concluded on the third day with a high level plenary session. In a message that was delivered on behalf of Mr J P Nadda, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, it was suggested that “WHO may urgently form a technical expert or advisory group in Geneva to consider the specific nature and requirements for safety, efficacy and appropriate use for medical devices. This group should render guidance to all countries on how best to assess the vast array of products in the field, including strengthening the vigilance for medical devices and diagnostics through the life cycle of the medical device.”

Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary-Health, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), who presided over the plenary session informed that, “The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has been a strong proponent of the WHO initiative to convene the global forum on medical devices to improve access to safe, effective, innovative, accessible, affordable and appropriate medical devices globally.”

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General, WHO, in her video address, said that “Reliable access to effective, safe, quality-assured and affordable medical products is key to making progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) and the SDGs.”

Dr Poonam Malakondaiah, Special Chief Secretary (Health), Government of Andhra Pradesh in her speech said that the need of the hour is quality, affordability and accessibility. She further added that with the launch of AMTZ, this need which had remained unaddressed in India for long time will henceforth get addressed.

Several state-of-the-art facilities such as the Kalam Institute of Health Technology, Controller General (Patents), National Institute of Design; and the Cell for Medical Equipments were inaugurated during this period. The forum also saw the launch of the WHO South East Asia Region Collaborating Centre for Quality Control of HIV, Hepatitis B & C and Syphilis In-Vitro Diagnostics at the National Institute of Biologicals in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

Among the many dignitaries present at various proceedings over the course of the event included: Mr Nasyam Mohammed Farooq, Minister (Health), ministers and senior officials from the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Balram Bhargava, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research; Mr Arun Singhal, Additional Secretary and Dr Mandeep Bhandari, Joint Secretary (JS) Regulation, MoHFW; Mr Rajiv Aggarwal, JS, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion; and Dr Suzanne Hill, Director, Essential Medicines and Health Products, WHO.

Other attendees included representatives from governments, R&D experts, academia, industry, NGOs, technology innovators, UN and intergovernmental agencies, professional associations, donor organizations, WHO collaborating centres and independent health professionals.

The forum discussed novel ideas for advancements in medical device technologies without compromising their safety and effectiveness. The forum aimed to define strategies for increasing access to priority medical devices under universal health coverage; share best practices in regulating, assessment and management of medical devices; demonstrate use of innovative, appropriate, affordable technologies to respond to global health priorities.