by Hazel Bradley, Michelle Viljoen, Star Khoza and Carnita Ernest
After almost 2 years working together, the Strengthening pharmacovigilance and regulatory capacities in four Southern African countries (SPaRCS) Project team finally met for our first in-person meeting in Cape Town this month. The 3-year project which aims to strengthen pharmacovigilance (PV) systems and clinical trials oversight of National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in Namibia, South Africa, Eswatini and Zimbabwe commenced in April 2020, just after COVID-19 lockdown had been implemented in our respective countries. Fortunately, access to digital technologies has enabled us to meet many of our project milestones during this time, albeit virtually rather than in-person as planned.
With this background, it was with considerable expectation that 16 participants from the four partner countries and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Schools of Public Health and Pharmacy finally met for the 3-day meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, from 16 -18 March 2022. The meeting commenced with an official welcome from the Directors of UWC’s Schools of Public Health and Pharmacy – Prof Uta Lehmann and Prof Sarel Malan. We were also privileged to have Dr Thomas Nyirenda, EDCTP’s Strategic Partnerships and Capacity Development Manager in attendance at this event and he shared an overview of EDCTP’s work across Africa and encouraged us to make closer connections with other PV projects that EDCTP support. On Day 2 Mr Ewan Tommy from the Medicine Information Centre (MIC) at the University of Cape Town visited us to present an overview of the role and activities of the MIC, particularly with respect to adverse drug reaction reporting, and some of the challenges they face.
Over the course of the 3 days we spent time working together on two of our project Work Packages (WPs) – WP3: Mutual Learning between the 4 NRAs, and WP4: Raising the profile of NRAs and PV systems. We used the opportunity to reflect together on our activities within these WPs thus far and plan for our 3rd and final year of the project. For WP3, having focused on mutual learning on pharmacovigilance in 2021, we are planning to focus on learnings on ‘clinical trials oversight’ and hope to visit the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) Regional Centre of Regulatory Excellence (ReCORE). In WP4 we will continue to develop a training presentation on adverse drug reaction reporting targeted at community health workers. The training presentation was developed and piloted in Cape Town and will be further piloted and modified for use in the four countries. Supportive documentation and special teaching notes (checklists) to facilitate train the trainer sessions using this training material will also be finalized.
This face-to-face meeting facilitated relationship building and sharing of knowledge and ideas among the team members in a relaxed environment. It enabled us to learn more deeply about each other’s areas of expertise and enabled greater collaborative and share learning opportunities, in line with the participatory, co-learning and co-creating, approaches of the project.