Drug shortages in low- and middle-income countries: Colombia as a case study

Background
Drug shortages are a global problem. Analyzing shortages worldwide is important to identify possible relationships between drug shortages across countries, determine strategies that reduce drug shortages, and reduce the inequality in access to medicines between countries. In contrast to well-documented shortages in high-income countries, there are few studies that consider low- and middle-income economies. We evaluate drug shortages in one middle-income country, Colombia.

Methods
We collected data from INVIMA, the institution responsible for managing medicine shortage alerts in Colombia. We classified the data using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system and analyzed them using descriptive statistics. We considered a study period from 2015 to 2021 (vital medicines) and from 2010 to 2020 (non-vital medicines).

Results
In total, 173 unique ATC codes were in shortage. These included antidotes, alimentary tract and metabolism products, anesthetics, cardiac stimulants and antithrombotic agents. The major causes were manufacturing problems and few suppliers. Drug shortages substantially increased from 2020 to May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among resolved shortages, the average duration was 1.6 years with a standard deviation of 1.9 years. The longest, naloxone tablets, were in shortage for almost 10 years.

Conclusions
Drug shortages are a persistent problem in Colombia. Government institutions have made progress in implementing systems and procedures to report them. However, the approaches implemented need to be maintained and refined. This study lays the groundwork for the analysis of drug shortages in other LMICs. We highlight the necessity of addressing drug shortages in their global context and reducing the inequality in access to medicines between countries.

“My Body, My Rhythm, My Voice”: a community dance pilot intervention engaging breast cancer survivors in physical activity in a middle-income country

Background: Interventions to promote physical activity among women breast cancer survivors (BCS) in low to middle-income countries are limited. We assessed the acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of a theory-driven group dance intervention for BCS delivered in Bogotá, Colombia.

Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental study employing a mixed-methods approach to assess the 8-week, 3 times/week group dance intervention. The effect of the intervention on participants’ physical activity levels (measured by accelerometry), motivation to engage in physical activity, and quality of life were evaluated using Generalized Estimating Equations analysis. The qualitative method included semi-structured interviews thematically analyzed to evaluate program acceptability.

Results: Sixty-four BCS were allocated to the intervention (N=31) or the control groups (N=33). In the intervention arm, 84% attended ≥60% of sessions. We found increases on average minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day (intervention: +8.99 vs control: -3.7 min; p = 0.01), and in ratings of motivation (intervention change score= 0.45, vs. control change score= -0.05; p = 0.01). BCS reported improvements in perceived behavioral capabilities to be active, captured through the interviews.

Conclusions: The high attendance, behavioral changes, and successful delivery indicate the potential effectiveness, feasibility, and scalability of the intervention for BCS in Colombia.

Trial registration: Clinical trials NCT05252780, registered on Dec 7th, 2021 – Retrospectively registered Unique protocol ID: P20CA217199-9492018.

A granular analysis of service delivery for surgical system strengthening: Application of the Lancet indicators for policy development in Colombia

Background
The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery (LCoGS) surgical indicators have given the surgical community metrics for objectively characterizing the disparity in access to surgical healthcare. However, aggregate national statistics lack sufficient specificity to inform strengthening plans at the community level. We performed a second-stage analysis of Colombian surgical system service delivery to inform the development of resource- and context-sensitive interventions to inform a revision of the Decennial Public Health Plan for access inequity resolution.

Methods
Data from the year 2016 to inform total operative volume (TOV) and 30-day non-risk adjusted peri-operative mortality (POMR) were collected from the Colombian national health information system. TOV and POMR were sub-characterized by demographics, urgency, service line, disease pathology and facility location.

Findings
In 2016, aggregate national mortality was 0·87%, while mortality attributable to elective and emergency surgery was 0·73% and 1·30%, respectively. The elderly experienced a 5·6-fold higher mortality, with 4·2% undergoing an operation within 30 days of dying. Individuals undergoing hepatobiliary, thoracic, cardiac, and neurosurgical operations experienced the highest mortality rates while obstetrics, general surgery, orthopaedics, and urology performed the largest procedure volume. Finally, analysis of operation and service line specific POMR reveals opportunities for improvement.

Interpretation
This granular second-stage analysis provides actionable data which is fundamental to the development of resource and context-sensitive interventions to address gaps and inequities in surgical system service delivery. Furthermore, this analysis validates the modeling underlying development of the LCoGS indicators. These data will inform the assessment of implementation priorities and revision of the Colombian Decennial Public Health Plan

Confidence and knowledge in emergency management among medical students across Colombia: A role for the WHO basic emergency care course

Introduction
Globally, medical students have demonstrated knowledge gaps in emergency care and acute stabilization. In Colombia, new graduates provide care for vulnerable populations. The World Health Organization (WHO) Basic Emergency Care (BEC) course trains frontline providers with limited resources in the management of acute illness and injury. While this course may serve medical students as adjunct to current curriculum, its utility in this learner group has not been investigated. This study performs a baseline assessment of knowledge and confidence in emergency management taught in the BEC amongst medical students in Colombia.

Methods
A validated, cross-sectional survey assessing knowledge and confidence of emergency care congruent with BEC content was electronically administered to graduating medical students across Colombia. Knowledge was evaluated via 15 multiple choice questions and confidence via 13 questions using 100 mm visual analog scales. Mean knowledge and confidence scores were compared across demographics, geography and prior training using Chi-Squared or one-way ANOVA analyses.

Results
Data were gathered from 468 graduating medical students at 36 institutions. The mean knowledge score was 59.9% ± 23% (95% CI 57.8–62.0%); the mean confidence score was 59.6 mm ±16.7 mm (95% CI 58.1–61.2). Increasing knowledge and confidence scores were associated with prior completion of emergency management training courses (p<0.0001).

Conclusion
Knowledge and confidence levels of emergency care management for graduating medical students across Colombia demonstrated room for additional, specialized training. Higher scores were seen in groups that had completed emergency care courses. Implementation of the BEC as an adjunct to current curriculum may serve a valuable addition.

Has Latin America achieved universal health coverage yet? Lessons from four countries

Background
Seven years after the commitment to United Nations’ call for Universal Health Coverage, healthcare services in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico are generally accessible and affordable; but they still struggle to meet population health demands and address the rising health care costs. We aim to describe measures taken by these four countries to commit by Universal Health Coverage, addressing their barriers and challenges.

Methods
Scoping literature review, supplemented with targeted stakeholders survey.

Results
The four countries analysed achieved an overall index of essential coverage of 76–77%, and households out of pocket health expenditures fall below 25%. Services coverage was improved by expanding access to primary healthcare systems and coverage for non-communicable diseases, while provided community outreach by the increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers. New pharmaceutical support programs provided access to treatments for chronic conditions at zero cost, while high-costs drugs and cancer treatments were partially guaranteed. However, the countries lack with effective financial protection mechanisms, that continue to increase out of pocket expenditure as noted by lowest financial protection scores, and lack of effective financial mechanisms besides cash transfers.

Conclusions
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico have made progress towards UHC. Although, better financial protection is urgently required.

Training facilitated by inter-institutional collaboration and telemedicine: An alternative for improving results in the placenta accreta spectrum

Background
Placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) is a severe condition that requires trained interdisciplinary group participation. However, achieving that specific training is difficult without academic programs or hospitals dedicated to teaching PAS skills.

Objectives
We describe an interinstitutional collaboration process focused on improving PAS treatment and facilitated by telemedicine. Finally, we propose a replicable model for other centres

Study Design
This was a retrospective, descriptive study including PAS patients treated over 10-years in a low-middle income country (LMIC) hospital (local hospital [LH]). We evaluated the clinical results and impact of interinstitutional collaboration with a PAS expert group (EG) at another LMIC. Virtual strategies of continuous communication between the LH and EG were used, such as telemedicine, teleradiology and telepresence during surgeries.

Results
Eighty-nine PAS patients were included. We observed a progressive improvement in clinical results (intraoperative bleeding, transfusion frequency, postoperative length of stay and frequency of complications) as the LH fixed interdisciplinary group gained experience by treating more cases.

Conclusions
Interinstitutional collaboration (through telemedicine and remote supervision) and PAS team formation, were related to the best results in the most recent years of observation. Thus, ongoing PAS team training, facilitated by inter-institutional collaboration and telemedicine, is a valid strategy for improving clinical outcomes in PAS.

A longitudinal surgical systems strengthening research program for medical students: the exploration of a model for global health education

Background
In response to the staggering global burden of conditions requiring emergency and essential surgery, the development of international surgical system strengthening (SSS) is fundamental to achieving universal, timely, quality, and affordable surgical care. Opportunity exists in identifying optimal collaborative processes that both promote global surgery research and SSS, and include medical students. This study explores an education model to engage students in academic global surgery and SSS via institutional support for longitudinal research.

Objectives
We set out to design a program to align global health education and longitudinal health systems research by creating an education model to engage medical students in academic global surgery and SSS.

Program design and implementation
In 2015, medical schools in the United States and Colombia initiated a collaborative partnership for academic global surgery research and SSS. This included development of two longitudinal academic tracks in global health medical education and academic global surgery, which we differentiated by level of institutional resourcing. Herein is a retrospective evaluation of the first two years of this program by using commonly recognized academic output metrics.

Main achievements
In the first two years of the program, there were 76 total applicants to the two longitudinal tracks. Six of the 16 (37.5%) accepted students selected global surgery faculty as mentors (Acute Care Surgery faculty participating in SSS with Colombia). These global surgery students subsequently spent 24 total working weeks abroad over the two-year period participating in culminating research experiences in SSS. As a quantitative measure of the program’s success, the students collectively produced a total of twenty scholarly pieces in the form of accepted posters, abstracts, podium presentations, and manuscripts in partnership with Colombian research mentors.

Policy implications
The establishment of scholarly global health education and research tracks has afforded our medical students an active role in international SSS through participation in academic global surgery research. We propose that these complementary programs can serve as a model for disseminated education and training of the future global systems-aware surgeon workforce with bidirectional growth in south and north regions with traditionally under-resourced SSS training programs.

Neurotrauma Registry Implementation in Colombia: A Qualitative Assessment

Objectives Latin America is among several regions of the world that lacks robust data on injuries due to neurotrauma. This research project sought to investigate a multi-institution brain injury registry in Colombia, South America, by conducting a qualitative study to identify factors affecting the creation and implementation of a multi-institution TBI registry in Colombia before the establishment of the current registry.

Methods Key informant interviews and participant observation identified barriers and facilitators to the creation of a TBI registry at three health care institutions in this upper-middle-income country in South America.

Results The study identified barriers to implementation involving incomplete clinical data, limited resources, lack of information and technology (IT) support, time constraints, and difficulties with ethical approval. These barriers mirrored similar results from other studies of registry implementation in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Ease of use and integration of data collection into the clinical workflow, local support for the registry, personal motivation, and the potential future uses of the registry to improve care and guide research were identified as facilitators to implementation. Stakeholders identified local champions and support from the administration at each institution as essential to the success of the project.

Conclusion Barriers for implementation of a neurotrauma registry in Colombia include incomplete clinical data, limited resources and lack of IT support. Some factors for improving the implementation process include local support, personal motivation and potential uses of the registry data to improve care locally. Information from this study may help to guide future efforts to establish neurotrauma registries in Latin America and in LMICs.

Prevention of road traffic collisions and associated neurotrauma in Colombia: An exploratory qualitative study

Introduction
Neurotrauma is an important but preventable cause of death and disability worldwide, with the majority being associated with road traffic collisions (RTCs). The greatest burden is seen in low -and middle- income countries (LMICs) where variations in the environment, infrastructure, population and habits can challenge the success of conventional preventative approaches. It is therefore necessary to understand local perspectives to allow for the development and implementation of context-specific strategies which are effective and sustainable.

Methods
This study took place in Colombia where qualitative data collection was carried out with ten key informants between October and November 2019. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and explored perceptions on RTCs and neurotrauma, preventative strategies and interventions, and the role of research in prevention. Interview transcripts were analysed by thematic analysis using a framework approach.

Results
Participants’ confirmed that RTCs are a significant problem in Colombia with neurotrauma as an important outcome. Human and organisational factors were identified as key causes of the high rates of RTCs. Participants described the current local preventative strategies, but were quick to discuss limitations and challenges to their success. Key barriers reported were poor attitudes and knowledge, particularly in the community. Suggestions were provided on ways to improve prevention through better education and awareness, stricter enforcement and new policies on prevention, proper budgeting and resource allocation, as well as through collaboration and changes in attitudes and leadership. Participants identified four key research areas they felt would influence prevention of RTCs and associated neurotrauma: causes of RTCs; consequences and impact of RTCs; public involvement in research; improving prevention.

Conclusion
RTCs are a major problem in Colombia despite the current preventative strategies and interventions. Findings from this study have a potential to influence policy, practice and research by illustrating different solutions to the challenges surrounding prevention and by highlighting areas for further research.

Silver linings: a qualitative study of desirable changes to cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Introduction: Public health emergencies and crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate innovation and place renewed focus on the value of health interventions. Capturing important lessons learnt, both positive and negative, is vital. We aimed to document the perceived positive changes (silver linings) in cancer care that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify challenges that may limit their long-term adoption.

Methods: This study employed a qualitative design. Semi-structured interviews (n = 20) were conducted with key opinion leaders from 14 countries. The participants were predominantly members of the International COVID-19 and Cancer Taskforce, who convened in March 2020 to address delivery of cancer care in the context of the pandemic. The Framework Method was employed to analyse the positive changes of the pandemic with corresponding challenges to their maintenance post-pandemic.

Results: Ten themes of positive changes were identified which included: value in cancer care, digital communication, convenience, inclusivity and cooperation, decentralisation of cancer care, acceleration of policy change, human interactions, hygiene practices, health awareness and promotion and systems improvement. Impediments to the scale-up of these positive changes included resource disparities and variation in legal frameworks across regions. Barriers were largely attributed to behaviours and attitudes of stakeholders.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to important value-based innovations and changes for better cancer care across different health systems. The challenges to maintaining/implementing these changes vary by setting. Efforts are needed to implement improved elements of care that evolved during the pandemic.