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How to Develop and Implement a National Drug Policy - WHO Policy Perspectives on Medicines, No. 006, January 2003
(2003; 6 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentWhat is a national drug policy?
View the documentObjectives of a national drug policy
View the documentThe essential medicine concept is central to a national drug policy
View the documentThe national drug policy process
Open this folder and view contentsKey components of a national drug policy
View the documentKey documents

The national drug policy process

A national drug policy involves a complex process of development, implementation and monitoring. First, the policy development process results in the formulation of the national drug policy. Second, strategies and activities aimed at achieving policy objectives are implemented by the various parties. Finally, the effect of these activities is monitored and the programme adjusted if necessary. Throughout the process careful planning and the involvement of all parties are needed, and the political dynamics have to be considered at all times.

Box 2 The policy process (check list for policy makers)

Steps in formulation

• Organize the policy process
• Identify the main problems and stakeholders
• Make a detailed situation analysis
• Set goals and objectives
• Draft the text of the policy
• Circulate and revise the draft policy
• Secure formal endorsement of the policy
• Launch the national drug policy


• Define priorities for implementation

• Develop a 3-5 year implementation plan including

- What needs to be done?
- Who is responsible?
- How much is required for the budget?
- When will the activity be carried out?

• Break down the implementation plan into annual work plans

Monitoring and evaluation

• Identify questions relevant for management decisions
• Limit data collection to data likely to be used
• Establish a reliable data collection system (plans for trained staff and resources)
• Share the data

Throughout the policy process there should be consultation, dialogue and negotiations with all interested groups and stakeholders. These include other ministries (education, trade, industry), doctors, pharmacists and nurses, local and international pharmaceutical industries, drug sellers, academia, nongovernmental organizations, professional associations and consumer groups. It is also important to consult with provincial and district personnel, and traditional and herbal medicine practitioners. Other government agencies, such as the drug regulatory agency, government sponsored health care schemes and insurance companies, must be involved.

Box 3 The national drug policy of South Africa

The National Drug Policy of South Africa was developed by the Department of Health over a two-year period through a large number of consultative meetings involving political parties, other ministries, academia, provincial and district representatives, professional bodies, the pharmaceutical industry and consumer representatives. The final document was adopted by Cabinet and presented to Parliament in June 1996; this formed the basis for a comprehensive five-year Implementation Plan. Part of its success was due to the political “window of opportunity” immediately after the end of apartheid in 1994.


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