• 25 years of the WHO essential medicines lists: progress and challenges.

      Laing, R; Waning, B; Gray, A; Ford, N; 't Hoen, E; Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02118, USA. richardl@bu.edu <richardl@bu.edu> (Elsevier, 2003-05-17)
      The first WHO essential drugs list, published in 1977, was described as a peaceful revolution in international public health. The list helped to establish the principle that some medicines were more useful than others and that essential medicines were often inaccessible to many populations. Since then, the essential medicines list (EML) has increased in size; defining an essential medicine has moved from an experience to an evidence-based process, including criteria such as public-health relevance, efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness. High priced medicines such as antiretrovirals are now included. Differences exist between the WHO model EML and national EMLs since countries face varying challenges relating to costs, drug effectiveness, morbidity patterns, and rationality of prescribing. Ensuring equitable access to and rational use of essential medicines has been promoted through WHO's revised drug strategy. This approach has required an engagement by WHO on issues such as the effect of international trade agreements on access to essential medicines and research and development to ensure availability of new essential medicines.
    • Access to Health Care for All? User Fees Plus a Health Equity Fund in Sotnikum, Cambodia.

      Hardeman, W; Van Damme, W; Van Pelt, M; Por, I; Kimvan, H; Meessen, B; Médecins sans Frontières, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Published by Oxford University Press, 2004-01)
      User fees in health services are a source of much debate because of their potential risk of negative effects on access to health care for the poor. A Health Equity Fund that identifies the poor and pays on their behalf may be an alternative to generally ineffective fee exemption policies. This paper presents the experience of such a Health Equity Fund, managed by a local non-governmental organization, in Sotnikum, Cambodia. It describes the results of the first 2 years of operations, investigates the constraints to equitable access to the district hospital and the effects of the Health Equity Fund on these constraints. The Health Equity Fund supported 16% of hospitalized patients. We found four major constraints to access: financial, geographical, informational and intra-household. The results of the study show that the Health Equity Fund effectively improves financial access for the poor, but that the poor continue to face many constraints for timely access. The study also found that the Health Equity Fund as set up in Sotnikum was very cost-effective, with minimal leakage to non-poor. Health Equity Funds managed by a local non-governmental organization seem to constitute a promising channel for donors who want to invest in poverty reduction. However, further research and experimentation are recommended in different contexts and with different set-ups.