The economic objective of a pharmaceutical supply system is to ensure a supply of safe, effective, good quality drugs at the least possible cost to the people who need them. This means that criteria of cost-effectiveness (maximum return on minimum resources) must be combined with criteria of equity (in which all people are regarded as equal). The aim pursued here is not the management of pharmaceutical services (2, 3) but the overall economic organization of a country’s pharmaceutical sector.
The importance of economic criteria and instruments in a world characterized by scarcity and unequal distribution of resources needs hardly be stressed. But however important economic criteria may be, legal, pharmacological, cultural and political criteria also play a role. These guidelines are deliberately confined to the economic aspects, although they do sometimes touch on these other dimensions.