Kenya: Updating the Essential Drugs List. Essential Drugs Monitor No. 016 (1993)
(1993; 2 pages)


Kenya was early to recognize the importance of essential drugs and created a national essential drugs list in 1981. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, economic difficulties in Kenya resulted in low availability and high costs for essential drugs. These hardships prompted the Ministry of Health to prioritize the rationalization of Kenya’s pharmaceutical sector. Consequently, two workshops sponsored by the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Health Care Financing Project were held in May 1993 to revise the essential drugs list. Deliberations were based on the WHO definition and criteria for essential drugs, primarily the question, “Does the drug benefit the vast majority of the people?” The group of pharmacists, academics, and various public health officials responsible for revising the list used the medicines for the most common diseases and complaints in Kenya as a starting point. Keeping cost in mind, the group placed generic medicines on the list whenever possible. They omitted several drugs from the previous list that were no longer widely prescribed in Kenya. A second schedule drugs list was compiled for important, but not essential, drugs that could be procured through pharmacies or hospitals. The new essential drugs list went into effect with the new National Drug Policy for Kenya in September 1993. The policy stated the purpose of the essential drugs list and gave the criteria for when and where the list should be used. The new list is intended to be a “living list” subject to constant change based on the country’s medical needs; it is scheduled for regular revision by the Ministry of Health. The Deputy Secretary of Health stated Kenya aims to dedicate $1 per person per year to health, doubling the budget from the previous year, as another means of improving health care in the country. (Abstract by Flannery Bowman, 2013)

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