Baseline assessment of WHO's target for both availability and affordability of essential medicines to treat non-communicable diseases

Margaret Ewen, Marjolein Zweekhorst, Barbara Regeer, Richard Laing

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Background WHO has set a voluntary target of 80% availability of affordable essential medicines, including generics, to treat major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in the public and private sectors of countries by 2025. We undertook a secondary analysis of data from 30 surveys in low- and middle-income countries, conducted from 2008-2015 using the World Health Organization (WHO)/Health Action International (HAI) medicine availability and price survey methodology, to establish a baseline for this target. Methods Data for 49 medicines (lowest priced generics and originator brands) to treat cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and central nervous system (CNS) conditions were analysed to determine their availability in healthcare facilities and pharmacies, their affordability for those on low incomes (based on median patient prices of each medicine), and the percentage of medicines that were both available and affordable. Affordability was expressed as the number of days' wages of the lowestpaid unskilled government worker needed to purchase 30 days' supply using standard treatment regimens. Paying more than 1 days' wages was considered unaffordable. Findings In low-income countries, 15.2% and 18.9% of lowest-priced generics met WHO's target in the public and private sectors, respectively, and 2.6% and 5.2% of originator brands. In lower-middle income countries, 23.8% and 23.2% of lowest priced generics, and 0.8% and 1.4% of originator brands, met the target in the public and private sectors, respectively. In upper-middle income countries, the situation was better for generics but still suboptimal as 36.0% and 39.4% met the target in public and private sectors, respectively. For originator brands in upper-middle income countries, none reached the target in the public sector and 13.7% in the private sector. Across the therapeutic groups for lowest priced generics, CVD medicines in low-income countries (11.9%), and CNS medicines in lower-middle (10.2%) and upper-middle income countries (33.3%), were least available and affordable in the public sector. In the private sector for lowest priced generics, CNS medicines were least available and affordable in all three country income groups (11.4%, 5.8% and 29.3% in low-, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries respectively). Interpretation This data, which can act as a baseline for the WHO target, shows low availability and/or poor affordability is resulting in few essential NCD medicines meeting the target in low- and middle-income countries. In the era of Sustainable Development Goals, and as countries work to achieve Universal Health Coverage, increased commitments are needed by governments to improve the situation through the development of evidence-informed, nationallycontextualised interventions, with regular monitoring of NCD medicine availability, patient prices and affordability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171284
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2017


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