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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2003 Jan-Feb;97(1):2-5.

The essential drugs concept is needed now more than ever.

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OXFAM, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK.


The debate on access to essential medicines, which was live in the late 1970s and 1980s when strong pressure from public health advocates led the pharmaceutical industry to accept the concept, is now back on the international health policy agenda. Currently, the Essential Drugs List (EDL) forms an integral part of national drug policies in 146 countries, guiding the selection of drugs on the basis of public health relevance, efficacy, safety and cost. The essential medicines debate is back on the agenda as part of the access to medicines debate. The Trade Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights agreement has caused concern among public health advocates in terms of its impact on access to essential medicines. This article reviews the concept of essential medicines in the light of the changing political context and recommends that the EDL is supported as a crucial public policy tool in all countries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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