Essential cancer medicines in the national lists of countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region: a descriptive assessment. (WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health | September 2018)
(2018; 9 pages)

Abstract

Background:

In 2015, the need for equitable access to cancer treatments in low- and middle income countries was underscored by the addition of 16 essential cancer medicines to the 19th World Health Organization (WHO) model list of essential medicines (WHO EML). This study assessed the degree to which this expanded WHO EML from 2015 has influenced inclusion of cancer medicines in the most recent national essential medicines lists of the countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region.

Methods:

The inclusion of a selected list of 38 essential cancer medicines in the 2015 WHO EML was assessed in the most recent national lists of essential medicines from the 11 countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region. Additionally, the availability of six essential cancer medicines common to the national lists of essential medicines from six countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region was explored.

Results:

Of the 38 selected essential cancer medicines included in the 19th WHO EML, a mean of 18.0 (range 2–33) were included in the national lists of countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region. Of the 25 essential cancer medicines included in the WHO EML prior to the 19th revision, a mean of 14.6 (range 2–21) were included in national lists; notably fewer of the 13 cancer medicines added in the 2015 revision were included: mean 3.4 (range 0–12).

Conclusion:

Compared with the WHO EML, there is a lag in the inclusion of essential cancer medicines in national lists of essential medicines in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Alignment of essential cancer medicines in national lists of essential medicines among the 11 countries in the region varies significantly. These differences may hinder regional strategies to improve access to essential cancer medicines, such as pooled procurement of selected high-cost medicines. The link between the availability and affordability of essential cancer medicines warrants further investigation, in the context of access to medicines for universal health coverage.

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