Increasing transparency for essential medicines

On December 1, 2008, in pharmaceuticals, by Karen Grepin

Despite the fact that medicines account for 20–60% of health spending in developing and transitional countries, there is little transparency about prices paid or the availability of these medicines in most non-OECD countries. It is therefore great news that our understanding just got a bit better.

In an upcoming Lancet, Cameron et al. describes the early results of an analysis of data collected in partnership with the WHO and Health Action International. The partnership developed a standardized methodology to collect internationally comparable data on prices paid for medicines in the public sector and by end-users as well as surveys to test for the availability of medicines and carried out these surveys in dozens of low income and middle income countries. What do they find? Among other things:

Medicines were available, on average, at best half the time in public sectors.

There was great variability across countries and regions with regards to how much above the international reference price governments paid for medicines. It ranged from 0·09 to 5·37 times international reference prices.

Private sector patients paid 9–25 times international reference prices for lowest-priced generic products.

Data from the surveys is available on the HAI website.

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