Bulletin of the World Health Organization

How to establish a successful revolving drug fund: the experience of Khartoum state in the Sudan

Gamal Khalafalla Mohamed Ali


During the 1990s, the Sudan began several initiatives to establish new medicine-financing mechanisms as part of the health reform process. Initial seed stocks were provided to each hospital. Unfortunately these facility-based funds did not regenerate and the hospitals were left without funds for medicines. The Revolving Drug Fund (RDF) was established in 1989 to facilitate access to medicines in health facilities in Khartoum state.


This study used quantitative and qualitative research techniques to collect data from health-care providers and users to evaluate the experience of operating an RDF in Khartoum state. Data from personal observations and from archival and statistical records were also analysed. Seven health facilities were sampled for this research.

Local setting

The Ministry of Health has a policy to expand the RDF to the whole country and has already commenced roll-out to seven more states. This policy is based on the experience of the RDF within Khartoum state.

Relevant changes

Khartoum state has a high (97%) level of availability of essential medicines and this is attributed to the RDF. The RDF medicines were mostly considered affordable by users and very few (6%) patients failed to obtain the prescribed medicines for financial reasons.

Lessons learned

The RDF could be successfully replicated in other states of the Sudan and in low-income countries with similar contexts on condition that they meet success factors, such as gradual implementation, political commitment and availability of hard currency.