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Trop Med Int Health. 2010 Mar;15(3):350-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02453.x. Epub 2010 Jan 11.

Prices of antihypertensive medicines in sub-Saharan Africa and alignment to WHO's model list of essential medicines.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Rwanda, Butare, Rwanda.



To investigate compliance of National Essential Medicines Lists (NEMLs) with the WHO Essential Medicines List (WHO/EML) in 2007 and to compare prices of antihypertensive drugs in and between 13 sub-Saharan African countries.


Data on NEMLs and drug prices were collected from 65 public and 65 private pharmacies (five of each per country). Prices were compared with the International Drug Price Indicator Guide (IDPIG). The cost of drug treatment within a country was calculated using defined daily doses (DDD) and between countries using DDD prices adjusted for purchasing power parity-based gross domestic product per capita.


All surveyed countries had a NEML. However, none of these lists were in complete alignment with the 2007 WHO/EML, and 38% had not been updated in the last 5 years. Surveyed medicines were cheaper when on the NEMLs; they were also cheaper in public than in private pharmacies. Prices varied greatly per medicine. A large majority of the public prices were higher than those indicated by the IDPIG. Overall, hydrochlorothiazide is the cheapest drug.


There are substantial differences in NEML composition between the 13 countries. The proportion of NEMLs not regularly updated was double the global United Nations estimates. Prices of WHO/EML-advised drugs differ greatly between drugs and for each drug within and between countries. In general, the use of drugs on the NEML improves financial accessibility, and these drugs should be prescribed preferentially.

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