Essential medicines and health products

WHO/Health Action International Project on Medicine Prices and Availability

The Project on Medicine Prices and Availability is a collaborative partnership between WHO and the international non-governmental organization Health Action International. It is an outcome of the Public Interest NGOs WHO Roundtable on Pharmaceuticals, established in 1998 to strengthen collaboration between WHO and civil society. The Project is also supported by a resolution of WHO Member States at the 54th World Health Assembly in 2001 calling for the development of "systems for voluntary monitoring drug prices and reporting global drug prices" (Resolution WHA 54.11).

A key achievement of the project has been the development of an innovative standardized survey methodology for measuring medicine prices, availability, affordability and price components. The survey manual was launched at the World Health Assembly in 2003 as a working draft for field testing. Following the application of the methodology in numerous countries, a revised edition of the manual was published in 2008.

The WHO/HAI survey method has become a validated and internationally accepted means of collecting reliable evidence on medicine prices and availability. As of December 2010, WHO/HAI medicine pricing surveys had been completed in over 50 countries. Survey data and reports are publicly available, constituting an important step towards greater transparency and availability of reliable information on medicine prices in different settings.

While support for data collection on medicine prices and availability is ongoing, the WHO/HAI project has shifted its focus from conducting research on medicine prices to using the results to effect positive policy changes. Current activities aim to advise national governments and other parties on achieving public and private sector medicine prices that lead to:

  • universal availability
  • affordable treatment
  • equitable access
  • rational use

As part of this work, policy guidance is being strengthened through a series of in-depth reviews on policies to manage medicine prices, increase availability and make medicines more affordable, with a focus on application in low- and middle-income countries. The following six reviews are in the final draft stage:

  • Price control mechanisms: external reference pricing
  • Price control mechanisms in the supply chain: mark-up regulation
  • Price control mechanisms: value-based pricing
  • Price control mechanisms: cost-plus price setting
  • Encouraging competition
  • The use of health insurance reimbursement mechanisms to influence price

Two additional reviews : " promoting the use of generic medicines" and "taxation policy" are in progress and are expected to be completed by mid-2011. The policy reviews will be posted below as they become available.