How do we improve access to medicines for non-communicable diseases?

Categories: Policy.

The authors highlight the global problem of poor access to safe, affordable, effective and quality medicines for non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases etc). While access varies between and within countries, there is significantly poorer access to medicines for NCD than for infectious and acute diseases.

In the 2011 UN political declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs, heads of government made several commitments related to access to essential medicines, technologies, and vaccines for such diseases.

In the article, the authors outline details of a number of recommendations on how national and international agencies can improve access to these medicines by:

  • Increasing efficiency in the selection, procurement, supply and use of medicine within the existing health budgets – for example, by promoting the use of off-patent, generic medicines.
  • Increasing financing for medicines through domestic funding, as part of universal access, and through international support.
  • Integrating pharmaceutical management with existing initiatives for other diseases, including HIV and AIDS.
  • Promoting research and ensuring access to new and future essential medicines.
  • Addressing conflicts of interest for all aspects of promotion of access to essential medicines.
  • Monitoring progress, by the developing and use indicators, benchmarks and targets.

The article, ‘Promotion of access to essential medicines for non-communicable diseases: practical implications of the UN political declaration’ was published online by The Lancet on 12 February 2012. The article is one of a current series on non-communicable diseases being published by the journal.

The article can be cited as follows: 

Hogerzeil, H. V., , Liberman, J., Wirtz, V. J., Kishore, S. P., Selvaraj, S., Mwangi-Powell, F. N., & von Schoen-Angerer, T. On behalf of The Lancet NCD Action Group. (2013). Promotion of access to essential medicines for non-communicable diseases: practical implications of the UN political declaration. The Lancet. Available from:

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