Historically the availability of drugs in Ghana has gone through trying times. In order to achieve optimal availability and use of essential drugs, the ministry of health has undertaken a number of measures to improve the situation. The first essential drugs list with therapeutic guidelines was published in 1983 which has subsequently undergone reviews. The current edition was published in 2000.
A comprehensive review of the pharmaceutical sector was also undertaken in 1994, which identified a number of major problems within the sector. Principal among these were inappropriate use of drugs, poor procurement, storage and distribution practices, inadequate financial management systems for drugs, leading to erosion of capital of the revolving drug funds and inappropriate quality assurance. The review process resulted in the formulation of a master plan for the pharmaceutical Sector that formed the basis for the setting up of Ghana National Drugs Programme (GNDP) in 1997. The overall objective has been to strengthen the pharmaceutical sector in order to ensure that all inhabitants in Ghana have access to essential drugs that are safe, effective, and affordable, of good quality and that are rationally used in both public and private sector.
Since its inception, the GNDP has spearheaded the launching of a National Drugs Policy (NDP), clinical pharmacy training programme, and workshops for health personnel in various institutions and retraining of chemical sellers. However, as in most developing countries, inadequate control of drug promotion and drug dispensing by untrained prescribers particularly of herbal drugs has left a wide gap in the promotion of rational drug use. In general while several activities have been carried out to promote rational prescribing and dispensing in the public sector, a lot remains to be done in the private sector. Other factors that hinder rational drug use include lack of objective drug information, drug adverts and promotion on both prescribers and consumers.
An up-coming edition of Ghana's NDP deals with intellectual property rights as contained in the TRIPS agreement (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). It also covers local production of antiretroviral drugs necessitated by the importance of HIV/AIDS in the disease profile of the country.