Equity in Access to Non-communicable Disease Medicines: A Cross-sectional Study in Kenya. (Bmj Global Health 2018;3:E000828)
(2018; 7 pages)


Introduction: Wealth-based inequity in access to medicines is an impediment to achieving universal health coverage in many low-income and middle-income countries. We explored the relationship between household wealth and access to medicines for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya.

Methods: We administered a cross-sectional survey to a sample of patients prescribed medicines for hypertension, diabetes or asthma. Data were collected on medicines available in the home, including the location and cost of purchase. Household asset information was used to construct an indicator of wealth. We analysed the relationship between household wealth and various aspects of access, including the probability of having NCD medicines at home and price paid.

Results: Among 639 patients interviewed, hypertension was the most prevalent NCD (69.6%), followed by diabetes (22.2%) and asthma (20.2%). There was a positive and statistically significant association between wealth and having medicines for patients with hypertension (p=0.020) and asthma (p=0.016), but not for diabetes (p=0.160). Poorer patients lived farther from their nearest health facility (p=0.050). There was no relationship between household wealth and the probability that the nearest public or non-profit health facility had key NCD medicines in stock, though less poor patients were significantly more likely to purchase medicines at better stocked private outlets. The relationship between wealth and median price paid for metformin by patients with diabetes was strongly u-shaped, with the middle quintile paying the lowest prices and the poorest and least poor paying higher prices. Patients with asthma in the poorest wealth quintile paid more for salbutamol than those in all other quintiles.

Conclusion: The poorest in Kenya appear to face increased barriers to accessing NCD medicines as compared with the less poor. To achieve universal health coverage, the country will need to consider pro-poor policies for improving equity in access.

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