Objectives: Although poor reproductive health constitutes a significant
proportion of the disease burden in developing countries, essential medicines for reproductive health are often not available to the
population. The objective was to analyze the guiding principles for developing national Essential Medicines Lists (EML). The second objective
was to compare the reproductive health medicines included on these EMLs to the 2002 WHO/UNFPA list of essential drugs and
commodities for reproductive health. Another objective was to compare the medicines included in existing international lists of
medicines for reproductive health.
Methods: The authors calculated the average number of medicines per clinical
groups included in 112 national EMLs and compared these average numbers with the number of medicines per clinical group included
on the WHO/UNFPA List. Additionally, they compared the content of the lists of medicines for reproductive health developed by
various international agencies.
Results: In 2003, the review of the 112 EMLs highlighted that medicines for
reproductive health were not consistently included. The review of the international lists identified inconsistencies in their
recommendations. The reviews’ outcomes became the catalyst for collaboration among international agencies in the development of the first
harmonized Interagency List of Essential Medicines for Reproductive Health. Additionally, WHO, UNFPA and PATH published guidelines to
support the inclusion of essential medicines for reproductive health in national medicine policies and EMLs. The Interagency List
became a key advocacy tool for countries to review their EMLs.
In 2009, a UNFPA/WHO assessment on access to reproductive health medicines in
six countries demonstrated that the major challenge was that the Interagency List had not been updated recently and was
Conclusion: The addition of cost-effective medicines for reproductive health
to EMLs can result in enhanced equity in access to and cost containment of these medicines, and improve quality of care. Action is
required to ensure their inclusion in national budget lines, supply chains, policies and programmatic guidance.