Access to essential medicines in 195 countries : a human rights approach to sustainable development

Authors & affiliation

Katrina Perehudoff, Nikita V Alexandrov, Hans V Hogerzeil


In 2008 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health published 72 right to health indicators in 194 health systems. We present a follow-up report of eight indicators for access to medicines to serve as a reference point for progress towards SDG Target 3.8 on essential medicines. Data for these eight indicators in 2015 were collected and compared with the 2008 report. Between 2008 and 2015 we observed increased numbers of constitutions recognising access to medicines (7-13 countries), countries with a national medicine policy (118-122) and with a national list of essential medicines (78-107). Public spending on pharmaceuticals decreased or rose modestly in most of the 44 countries. Median availability of a basket of lowest-priced generics increased in the public (63%-70% n = 9 countries) and private (84%-92% n = 10) sectors. Median child immunisation rates remained constant for measles (around 90%) and improved for three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (79%-86%). These eight indicators are useful and feasible, but should be further strengthened and expanded. Future monitoring exercises should use these indicators to screen progress and guide national governments' action to ensure universal access to essential medicines as part of the right to health.

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Katrina Perehudoff

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