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Poor Countries Cannot Afford Common Medicines

September 1, 2010

A study has found that people in low and middle-income countries would be pushed to below the poverty line if they bought common medicines.

Laurens Niens’ team at Erasmus University Rotterdam analyzed the number of people who would be pushed below an income level of $1.25 or $2 a day by paying for four widely used medicines.

The team said their findings showed that greater effort is needed in order to encourage the use of cheaper generic drugs in poor countries to help ensure more medicines are made available.

The researchers studied the drugs salbutamol inhaler, used to help manage asthma, glibenclamide, a diabetes drug, atenolol, a high blood pressure drug, and amoxicillin, an antibiotic.

The researchers published their findings in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine journal on Tuesday.  They generated “impoverishment rates” for these medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by using data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

In Yemen, where seven percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day, another 22 percent of the population would fall below the poverty line by purchasing glibenclamide.  However, buying the cheapest generic equivalent would only push another 3 percent of the population below the poverty line.

In Nigeria, 56 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.  If Nigerians were to purchase the branded version of amoxicillin, another 23 percent would fall below the poverty line.

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