Essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies

A close up on two hands holding a pills counter tray and a spatula while sorting and loading up pills in a container Careful selection of medicines linked with clinical treatment guidelines can contribute to better health care. Photo credit: WHOUp to 50% of populations in low-income countries do not have reliable access to quality essential medicines. Medicines are either unavailable in public health facilities or unaffordable. Globally, this lack of access kills millions who die from diseases which are preventable and/or treatable, and yet, access to essential medicines is now considered a universal human right.

The objectives of WHO’s essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies programme are to save lives and improve health by ensuring the quality, efficacy, safety and rational use of medicines, including traditional medicines. It promotes equitable and sustainable access to essential medicines particularly for the poor and disadvantaged.

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Implementing the third WHO Medicines Strategy 2008–2013, provides practical guidance to WHO and stakeholders on how the essential medicines concept and WHO’s expertise will be used to promote universal access...

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In focus

Pharmaceutical situation assessment – Level II: health facilities survey, Syrian Arab Republic

The study Pharmaceutical situation assessment – Level II: health facilities survey was conducted in June 2009 by the Ministry of Health of the Syrian Arab Republic to assess the effectiveness...

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The WHO Good Governance for Medicines (GGM) programme was launched in 2004 with the goal of contributing to health systems strengthening and preventing corruption by promoting good governance in the...

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Statistics and figures

Regional Health Observatory

Average pharmaceutical expenditure: US$ 1141 million

Average pharmaceutical expenditure per capita: US$ 57 

Average density of pharmacists: 5.02 per 10 000 population

Average number of licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers: 52

Average number of registered pharmaceutical products: 7529