World Health Organization
The world pharmaceuticals market has witnessed an increase in the number of pharmaceutical productsa circulating worldwide, leading to a rapid growth in both medicines consumption and expenditure. However WHO estimates that, as of 1997, at least one-third of the world’s population still lacks access to essential medicines, either because these are not available or are too expensive, or because there are no adequate facilities or trained professionals to prescribe them. In poorer areas of Asia and Africa this figure may be as high as one-half. As a result, millions of children and adults die or suffer needlessly, although their disease could have been prevented or treated with cost-effective and inexpensive essential medicines.
a Throughout this document, the words ‘drug’, ‘medicine’ and ‘pharmaceutical product’ are used interchangeably.
Experience in many countries has shown that these complicated and interdependent problems can best be addressed within a common framework, as piecemeal approaches can leave important problems unsolved and often fail. In addition, the different policy objectives are sometimes contradictory, and so are the interests of some of the stakeholders. On the basis of this experience, WHO recommends that all countries formulate and implement a comprehensive national drug policy (NDP). A policy is not static and will usually evolve over time. Most countries will need to revise their policies within five years.