Essential Medicines

Sound Ethics Subject Guide: Essential Medicines

This Sound Ethics topic guide addresses shows broadcast on two dates – April 6 (Sound Ethics: Medicines in the Developing World) and May 4, 2008 (Sound Ethics: Essential Medicines for Low-Income Countries).

Premise: The WHO estimates that 10 million people die annually (mostly in developing countries) because they do not have access to existing medicines and vaccines. There is a growing consensus that both private industry and universities have a role in improving access to drugs within low- and middle-income countries.

In the April 6 episode Eric Meslin, Ph.D., discusses with Alan Breier, M.D., Vice President for Medical and Chief Medical Officer, Eli Lilly and Co., the role of industry in improving access to essential medicines. Breier also shares Lilly's efforts to extend access to medication, efforts exemplified by the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, a program that works with the WHO to provide medications and training for the prevention and treatment of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis.

In the May 4 episode, Eric Meslin, Ph.D, discusses with Caroline Rouse, a second year student at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the role universities can play in building better access to medicines. Rouse, a member of the Indiana University chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, also shares the aims and activities of this advocacy group.

Essential Medicines:

  • Hogerzeil HV. Essential medicines and human rights: what can they learn from each other? Bull World Health Organ. 2006 May;84(5):371-5. Epub 2006 May 17. PMID: 16710546

  • MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

  • Pécoul B. New drugs for neglected diseases: from pipeline to patients. PLoS Med. 2004 Oct;1(1):e6. Epub 2004 Oct 19. PMID: 15526054

  • Pécoul B, Chirac P, Trouiller P, Pinel J. Access to essential drugs in poor countries: a lost battle? JAMA. 1999 Jan 27;281(4):361-7. PMID: 9929090

  • Quick JD. Essential medicines twenty-five years on: closing the access gap. Health Policy Plan. 2003 Mar;18(1):1-3. PMID: 12582103

  • Quick JD, Hogerzeil HV. Ten best readings in ... essential medicines. Health Policy Plan. 2003 Mar;18(1):119-21. PMID: 12582115

  • World Health Organization. Topics: Essential Medicines.

  • World Health Organization. WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines. Accessed March 2008 from

  • World Health Organization. Equitable access to essential medicines: a framework for collective action. WHO Policy Perspectives on Medicines. March 2004. [PDF - 135 KB]

Patents, Pharmaceuticals and the Role of Universities:

Patents, Pharmaceuticals and the Role of Industry

  • Attaran A. How do patents and economic policies affect access to essential medicines in developing countries? Health Aff (Millwood). 2004 May-Jun;23(3):155-66. PMID: 15160813 | [PDF - 252 KB]

  • Calon F. Nonpatentable drugs and the cost of our ignorance. CMAJ. 2006 Feb 14;174(4):483-4. PMID: 16477060

  • Danzon PM, Towse A. Differential pricing for pharmaceuticals: reconciling access, R&D and patents. Int J Health Care Finance Econ. 2003 Sep;3(3):183-205. Review. PMID: 14625999 | [PDF 124 KB]

  • Novas C. What is the bioscience industry doing to address the ethical issues it faces? PLoS Med. 2006 May;3(5):e142. Epub 2006 Apr 4. PMID: 16573362

  • Pogge T. Montréal statement on the human right to essential medicines. Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2007 Winter;16(1):97-108. PMID: 17345971 | [PDF 86.1 KB]

  • Yamin AE. Not just a tragedy: access to medications as a right under international law. Boston Univ Int Law J. 2003 Fall;21(2):325-71. PMID: 16514750 | [PDF 163 KB]

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