Providing Medications Not Impossible for Low, Middle-Income Countries

The cost of providing essential medications may not be too costly in low- and middle-income countries.

Access to affordable medication is an issue that not only affects the United States, but also affects countries around the world.

A recent study suggests that providing access to these essential medications to low- and middle-income countries may not be as difficult or costly as thought. In a study published by The Lancet, investigators created a model that estimates the cost of providing treatments to patients in these countries.

The study was a part of The Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines Policies, which is a report that complies information from 21 experts to create global policies regarding essential medications and the future of health technology over the next 20 years.

Specifically, the investigators determined the cost of providing approximately 200 crucial medications for all individuals living in these countries. They defined low- and middle-income countries in accordance with the 2015 World Bank Income groupings.

Investigators developed the list of medications based on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications. They excluded any medications that required specialized care and could not be administered in a primary or secondary care environment, according to the study.

Treatment for HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, and respiratory conditions, were all included in the model.

The model enters information about the burden of the disease (how many individuals have each health condition), and a coverage estimate (how many individuals would receive the treatment).

Investigators estimated how many individuals in these countries should receive the medication, and then calculated international cost data to determine the total cost for each set of medication, according to the study.

They discovered that it would cost from $77 billion to $152 billion each year to provide access to essential medications to this population, which is $13 to $25 per capita annually.

“In 2010, 28 of 31 low-income countries and 13 of 47 middle-income countries spent less than this on pharmaceuticals, which in some cases may include drugs not included in the model,” said co-author Corrina Moucheraud, ScD, MPH. “This suggests that there may be room to improve the equity and efficiency of financing to ensure access to these essential medicines to all populations.”

The commission also suggested multiple steps to address the perceived impossible challenge in providing essential medication to this population.

They suggest that governments provide adequate financing to make sure that they are able to provide these medications, and the investigators believe their model could help countries start off by determining their financial needs.

Governments should also enact laws that reduce the amount of out-of-pocket spending on medications, since more than half off all medication spending in these countries is out-of-pocket, according to the study.

The commission also states that other countries should provide assistance to low- and middle-income countries if they are unable to provide essential medications to their citizens. The governments of these countries should also invest in technology to track public and private spending on all medications, according to the commission.

“As universal coverage is increasingly recognized as central to the right to health, the global community must figure out how to implement it,” Dr Moucheraud said. “Estimates like this one are important to assist policymakers, to mobilize funds and ensure that everyone has access to the medicines they need.”