August 24, 2023
This Thursday (August 24), the Brazilian government published in its Official Gazette Law #14,654/2023, supplementing Law #8,080/1990 and addressing the enforcement, protection, and recovery of public health in Brazil to require States and Municipalities to make drug stock-related data in pharmacies of the Brazilian Public Health System (“SUS”) more easily accessible.
The new Law, which comes into force 180 days after its release in the Official Gazette, establishes that the States and Municipalities, responsible for the distribution of drugs to public pharmacies, must post on their websites data related to the pharmacies' drug stocks, which must be easily accessed by citizens.
Currently, drug stock data can only be accessed through a specific requirement to be filed before each public body responsible for controlling the stocks, as per the Brazilian Freedom of Information Act – FOIA (Law #12,527/2011). This process hinders citizens from accessing and controlling information on drug stock, as well as monitoring shortages in the public health system. This was mentioned by the Social Matters Committee of the Brazilian Congress during the legislative process of Bill #4,673/2019, that became Law #14,654/2023. Furthermore, public bodies have been known to deny access to this information, citing confidentiality concerns.
Publicizing drug stocks was widely debated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Federal Government's decision to keep such information secret, preventing the public from accessing and controlling stocks of strategic medicines for SUS, including vaccines. This decision was challenged before the Federal Court of Auditors ("TCU"), and suspended by said Court between June and July 2022 due to a preliminary injunction granted and later suspended by the Plenary of TCU.
The importance of publicizing stock data extends beyond COVID-19. This issue directly affects the population relying on government-supplied medicines, which often faces difficulty accessing such medicines due to a lack of distribution planning.
Considering the history of confidentiality surrounding important health data, as well as the not-uncommon logistical challenges of supplying public pharmacies, the new law is timely in solidifying citizens' access to drug stock information from public entities.
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