Innovation in regulation of rapidly changing health markets

posted Jul 18, 2014, 9:09 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 9:09 AM ]
Gerald Bloom, Spencer Henson, David H Peters

The rapid evolution and spread of health markets across low and middle-income countries (LMICs) has contributed to a significant increase in the availability of health-related goods and services around the world. The support institutions needed to regulate these markets have lagged behind, with regulatory systems that are weak and under-resourced. This paper explores the key issues associated with regulation of health markets in LMICs, and the different goals of regulation, namely quality and safety of care, value for money, social agreement over fair access and financing, and accountability. Licensing, price controls, and other traditional approaches to the regulation of markets for health products and services have played an important role, but they have been of questionable effectiveness in ensuring safety and efficacy at the point of the user in LMICs. The paper proposes a health market systems conceptual framework, using the value chain for the production, distribution and retail of health goods and services, to examine regulation of health markets in the LMIC context. We conclude by exploring the changing context going forwards, laying out implications for future heath market regulation. We argue that the case for new approaches to the regulation of markets for health products and services in LMICs is compelling. Although traditional "command and control" approaches will have a place in the toolkit of regulators, a broader bundle of approaches is needed that is adapted to the national and market-level context of particular LMICs. The implication is that it is not possible to apply standard or single interventions across countries, as approaches proven to work well in one context will not necessarily work well elsewhere.

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