Retail drug sellers are a major source of health care and medicines in many countries. In Tanzania, drug shops are widely used, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Previously, the shops were allowed to sell only over-the-counter medicines, but sellers who were untrained and unqualified often illegally sold prescription drugs of questionable quality.
In 2003, we worked with Tanzania's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to develop a public-private partnership based on a holistic approach that builds the capacity of owners, dispensers, and institutions that regulate, own, or work in retail drug shops. For shop owners and dispensers, this was achieved by combining training, business incentives, supervision, and regulatory enforcement with efforts to increase client demand for and expectations of quality products and services. The accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program's goal is to improve access to affordable, quality medicines and pharmaceutical services in retail drug outlets in rural or peri-urban areas with few or no registered pharmacies. The case study characterizes how the ADDO program achieved that goal based on the World Health Organization's health system strengthening building blocks: 1) service delivery, 2) health workforce, 3) health information systems, 4) access to essential medicines, 5) financing, and 6) leadership and governance.
The ADDO program has proven to be scalable, sustainable, and transferable: Tanzania has rolled out the program nationwide; the ADDO program has been institutionalized as part of the country's health system; shops are profitable and meeting consumer demands; and the ADDO model has been adapted and implemented in Uganda and Liberia. The critical element that was essential to the ADDO program's success is stakeholder engagement-the successful buy-in and sustained commitment came directly from the effort, time, and resources spent to fully connect with vital stakeholders at all levels.
Beyond improving the quality of medicines and dispensing services, availability of essential medicines, and the regulatory system, the impact of a nationwide accredited drug seller approach on the pharmaceutical sector promises to provide a model framework for private-sector pharmaceutical delivery in the developing world that is sustainable without ongoing donor support.