(first published online December 1)
Objective: To investigate the availability of essential medicines and their
prices in Hubei province.
Methods: The survey assessed the prices and availability of essential
medicines using the World Health Organization and Health Action International
methodology. Data were collected from 18 public hospitals and 18 private
pharmacies. At each facility the availability and prices of 39 innovator brand
medicines and lowest-price generic equivalent medicines were collected. Medicine
prices were compared with international reference prices to obtain a median
price ratio (MPR). Daily incomes of low and average levels were used to assess
the affordability of the medicines.
Findings: Median availability in the public and private sectors was low
(38.9% and 44.4% for lowest-price generics, respectively). The median MPRs of
procurement prices for innovator brands and lowest-price generics in the public
sector were 9.78 and 0.74 times the international reference prices; and the
median MPRs of retail prices to patients for lowest-price generics in the public
sector (1.04) were higher than those in the private sector (0.68). For most of
the population, the medicine prices are affordable, but for those of low income
they are not.
Conclusions: The survey revealed low procurement prices but poor availability
in the public sector. Various policy adjustments could increase the availability
of essential medicines and reduce their prices for the low income population.