Essential medicines and health products

Access to non communicable diseases medicines

Every year about 35 million deaths occur due to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). About 80% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Most of the conditions which cause these deaths can be treated with essential medicines. Unfortunately access to these chronic disease medicines is generally poor in most low- and middle-income countries.

Low public sector availability of essential medicines is often caused by a lack of public resources or under-budgeting, inaccurate demand forecasting, and inefficient procurement and distribution. This forces patients into the private sector, where generic medicines are often 2-3 times more expensive. Chronic treatment puts an enormous and continuous financial strain on household budgets. In most developing countries, the highest component of household health related expenditure is on medicines. The cost of chronic medicine treatment often constitutes catastrophic health expenditure, pushing the family below the poverty line.

Many policy options exist to address these problems and to achieve, for NCDs, the same three main objectives that are valid for any general essential medicines programme: equitable access (rational selection, affordable prices, sustainable financing and reliable systems), assured quality and safety, and quality use by prescribers and consumers. In most countries the national situation will need to be assessed first, to decide which approaches are most relevant to which country.

Key reference and resources

First global ministerial conference on healthy lifestyles and NCDs control

28-29 April 2011, Moscow, the Russian Federation