Buying common medicines can push poor people further into poverty

Aug 31, 2010

A substantial proportion (up to 86%) of the population living in low and middle income countries would be pushed into poverty as a result of purchasing common life-saving medicines. These are the findings of a study by Laurens Niëns from Erasmus University Rotterdam and colleagues and published in this week's PLoS Medicine. In addition, generic versions of such medicine were shown to be generally substantially more affordable than originator brand products.

In order to show the impact of the cost of medicines on poorer populations, the authors analysed the proportion of people who would be pushed into poverty (an income level of US$1.25 or US$2 a day) by paying for life-saving medicines--the "impoverishing effect of a ."

The authors generated "impoverishment rates" of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by comparing households' daily per capita income before and after (the hypothetical) purchase of one of the following: a salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab. This selection of drugs covers the treatment/management of three and one acute illness.

The results of the study show that the high cost of medicines have catastrophic effects on poor people. In addition, as the treatment of often requires a combination of medicines, the cost of treating and managing a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is likely to be even more unaffordable than what is reported in this study.

The authors conclude: "Action is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems."

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

More information: Niens LM, Cameron A, Van de Poel E, Ewen M, Brouwer WBF, et al. (2010) Quantifying the Impoverishing Effects of Purchasing Medicines: A Cross-Country Comparison of the Affordability of Medicines in the Developing World. PLoS Med 7(8): e1000333. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333

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User comments : 2

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Ravenrant
5 / 5 (1) Sep 01, 2010
It's their own fault for being poor, ask any republican.
ironjustice
not rated yet Sep 01, 2010
One could just as well 'theoretically' say they would / will be MUCH better served simply because they will be pushed towards the 'cheaper' / inexpensive / virtually free medicines such as the simple sugar d-mannitol used in Japan for example and veritably totally unused in the USA.

"D-Mannitol, Inhibits ACE Activity and Lowers the Blood Pressure of Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats"
"70% physicians in China use mannitol or glycerol in acute stroke"

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