Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Global health

Access to essential drugs achievable for up to US$2 per person per month

Report puts a price on the global cost of providing essential medicines to low-to-middle income countries.

It would cost between US$1 and US$2 per person per month to ensure those living in low-to-middle income countries have access to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of 201 essential medicines, according to a landmark report, which for the first time puts a price on the global cost of providing this basket of core drugs.

However, the ‘Essential medicines for universal health coverage’ report, which was launched by The Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines, points out that one in five countries across the world still spends less on medicines than this target amount.

The report says that although the total estimated global spend on medicines will be US$1.2 trillion in 2017, the average total spend on all medicines in low-to-middle income countries equates to just US$8.6 per person per year – illustrating the need for “urgent” additional funding if universal access to these core medicines is to be achieved.

The commission based its cost calculation on the price of 378 essential products — or 210 medicines — including morphine, antimalarial drugs, HIV drugs, contraceptives and vaccines.

During a teleconference briefing ahead of the report’s launch on 8 November 2016, co-author Andy Gray, a senior lecturer in the division of pharmacology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, said that it was up to individual governments and national health systems to ensure that adequate funding is available to guarantee access to essential medicines for everyone. If that does not happen, Gray argued that there would be a need for the international community to step in and pick up the bill as part of its human rights obligations.

Co-chairs of The Lancet Commission, Andy Gray, xxxx Wirtz and Hans Hogerzeil

Source: Andy Gray

The Lancet Commission, which for the first time puts a price on the global cost of providing essential medicines, was co-chaired by Andy Gray, Veronika Wirtz and Hans Hogerzeil (from left to right)

“Countries around the world, regardless of income level, face enormous challenges ensuring equitable access to affordable, quality-assured essential medicines,” said Gray.

Guaranteed quality is key if the public health benefits of such access are to materialise and if the United Nations’ sustainable development goal to achieve universal health coverage by 2030 is achieved, according to the commission.

Also speaking during the teleconference, Hans Hogerzeil, professor of global health at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, said fake medicines were still emerging across the world. For example, 28% of antimalarial drugs in six African countries have been found to be “sub-standard”, while 11% of drugs to treat tuberculosis in the former Russian republics have failed to meet quality standards, he said.

Hogerzeil suggested that drug regulators should collaborate more to police the quality of medicines. “The regulatory agencies in countries [affected by the emergence of fake medicines] shouldn’t try to do everything themselves,” he said.

He also highlighted variation in the performance of individual regulatory agencies across countries. The Lancet commission has recommended that drug regulators should be individually assessed according to proposed performance indicators.

Hogerzeil also drew attention to the research and development agendas of drug manufacturers — another barrier to achieving universal access to essential medicines. “Some existing essential medicines are now being abandoned [by drug manufacturers] because they are… not big money earners,” he said. “They are disappearing from the market because they are not seen as profitable. That is a real problem.”

He added that it has been a “public policy failure” to allow the market to influence drug manufacturer’s research and development programmes.

“The system needs overall change — it needs public policy,” he said.

The Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines is made up of 21 international experts from organisations with an interest in universal access to essential medicines, including the WHO and national schools of public health. It was established by The Lancet in November 2014 to take stock of global essential medicine policies and an individual’s right to health and the role it had in achieving universal health coverage.

The commission’s focus was on the ongoing relevance, and the need for comprehensive essential medicines policies to achieve broader global health and sustainable development goals and to put forward recommendations to meet global essential medicine policies for the next two decades.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201925

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

  • International Research in Healthcare

    International Research in Healthcare

    Guidance for students or researchers undertaking a multi-centre research project in health services, medicines use and professional practice.

    £38.00Buy now
  • Introduction to Clinical Pharmaceutics (An)

    Introduction to Clinical Pharmaceutics (An)

    This unique textbook covers the role of basic pharmaceutics in clinical outcomes and in explaining the behaviour of medicines in the body.

    £27.00Buy now
  • Biological Therapeutics

    Biological Therapeutics

    An introduction to the treatment of disease using biological medicines derived from living plant and animal tissues.

    £33.00Buy now
  • Medicines, Ethics and Practice

    Medicines, Ethics and Practice

    The Royal Pharmaceutical Society's established professional guide for pharmacists

    £55.00Buy now
  • Dale and Appelbe's Pharmacy and Medicines Law

    Dale and Appelbe's Pharmacy and Medicines Law

    This new edition of Dale and Appelbe's Pharmacy and Medicines Law is the definitive guide to law and ethics for pharmacy practice in the UK. It covers law and professional regulation and is firmly established as the definitive student textbook and reference work on this subject in the UK. Fully updated to include changes to pharmacy laws and regulation.

    £57.00Buy now

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Supplementary images

  • Children in the slums in Africa
  • Co-chairs of The Lancet Commission, Andy Gray, Veronika Wirtz and Hans Hogerzeil

Jobs you might like

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.