Legislating for universal access to medicines : a rights-based cross-national comparison of UHC laws in 16 countries

Authors & affiliation

Katrina Perehudoff, Nikita V Alexandrov, Hans V Hogerzeil


Universal health coverage (UHC) aims to ensure that all people have access to health services including essential medicines without risking financial hardship. Yet, in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) inadequate UHC fails to ensure universal access to medicines and protect the poor and vulnerable against catastrophic spending in the event of illness. A human rights approach to essential medicines in national UHC legislation could remedy these inequities. This study identifies and compares legal texts from national UHC legislation that promote universal access to medicines in the legislation of 16 mostly LMICs: Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Tunisia and Uruguay. The assessment tool was developed based on WHO's policy guidelines for essential medicines and international human rights law; it consists of 12 principles in three domains: legal rights and obligations, good governance, and technical implementation. Relevant legislation was identified, mapped, collected and independently assessed by multi-disciplinary, multi-lingual teams. Legal rights and State obligations toward medicines are frequently codified in UHC law, while most good governance principles are less common. Some technical implementation principles are frequently embedded in national UHC law (i.e. pooled user contributions and financial coverage for the vulnerable), while others are infrequent (i.e. sufficient government financing) to almost absent (i.e. seeking international assistance and cooperation). Generally, upper-middle and high-income countries tended to embed explicit rights and obligations with clear boundaries, and universal mechanisms for accountability and redress in domestic law while less affluent countries took different approaches. This research presents national law makers with both a checklist and a wish list for legal reform for access to medicines, as well as examples of legal texts. It may support goal 7 of the WHO Medicines & Health Products Strategic Programme 2016-30 to develop model legislation for medicines reimbursement.

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Staff members:

Katrina Perehudoff

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Open link


czy101.pdf (open)

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