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Africa pharmaceuticals

Improving access to drugs: Fitting the solution to the problem

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Patricio Marquez’s post correctly  identifies lack of access  to quality medicines as one of the  constraints to poor people’s health in Africa.    But the  solutions he recommends—more public money for “essential drugs benefits”, building  resilient institutions,  and providing  physicians  with better  scientific information  and guidelines  about  drug  prescriptions—are   unlikely   by    themselves  to   improve poor   people’s   health  outcomes.

More public money.  Patricio notes that out-of-pocket expenditures are about 40 percent of total health expenditures and most of this is spent on outpatient drugs.  He assumes the reason is that countries have not adopted a program of essential drugs benefits, and the reason for the latter is lack of public resources.  But consider the following facts. 

How can we improve access and get more value from drug expenditures in Africa?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Medicines are key inputs for quality medical care and the prevention of disease, and when administered appropriately, as evidence from Sub-Saharan African countries shows, they can contribute significantly to reducing death rates due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
 
But it is also obvious that not everybody in these countries, particularly the poor, enjoys this benefit, since limited access to essential drugs remains a key challenge in most health systems.  High out-of-pocket expenditures, typically more than 40% of total health expenditures in some countries (a large portion for outpatient drugs), also place a heavy burden on poor families with chronically ill members who require daily drug intake.