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(2012; 44 pages)
In 2004, the Regional Strategy for Improving Access to Essential Medicines in the Western Pacific Region (2005–2010) was endorsed by Member States to provide practical and evidence-based guidance for developing actions to improve access to essential medicines and strengthen pharmaceutical systems. Depending on the local context, countries chose specific areas on which to focus and adapted their implementation plans according to their national objectives.
In spite of the progress made over the years, access to essential medicines of assured quality still poses problems for countries in the Western Pacific Region. In high-income countries, problems are related to rational use and cost containment, while in low- and most middle-income countries, ensuring access to essential medicines, especially for the poor and the vulnerable, remains a major public health problem.
After food, medicines account for the second-largest household expenditure. A substantial portion of the population in low- and lower-middle-income countries may have to make difficult choices as they have to pay out of pocket for their vital medicines. In the Western Pacific Region, catastrophic medicine payments can entrench individuals and families in poverty. Recent price surveys show that even the lowest-priced generics are often unaffordable for the poor.
The increasing need for essential medicines due to the growing burden of diseases is stretching country pharmaceutical systems and budgets. Thus, more resources are required for reliable and timely delivery of quality assured medicines as well as their appropriate utilization. To address the growing need, governments must ensure efficient use of resources that the system and the people can afford. They should protect the public from substandard and counterfeit medicines, increase access to medicines while containing costs, and ensure efficiency of supply chains and rational use of medicines.
Countries in the Western Pacific Region have taken a comprehensive approach to prioritizing goals for the pharmaceutical sector and identifying strategies to attain them. They have used the Regional Strategy for Improving Access to Essential Medicines in the Western Pacific Region (2005–2010) as a practical guide for developing and implementing actions in a synergistic way.