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(2016; 16 pages)
A constitutional guarantee of access to essential medicines has been identified as an important indicator of government commitment to the progressive realization of the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The objective of this study was to evaluate provisions on access to essential medicines in national constitutions, to identify comprehensive examples of constitutional text on medicines that can be used as a model for other countries, and to evaluate the evolution of constitutional medicines-related rights since 2008. Relevant articles were selected from an inventory of constitutional texts from WHO member states. References to states’ legal obligations under international human rights law were evaluated. Twenty-two constitutions worldwide now oblige governments to protect and/or to fulfill accessibility of, availability of, and/or quality of medicines. Since 2008, state responsibilities to fulfill access to essential medicines have expanded in five constitutions, been maintained in four constitutions, and have regressed in one constitution. Government commitments to essential medicines are an important foundation of health system equity and are included increasingly in state constitutions.