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National law & policy for access to medicines

This project offers policy tools, analyses, and evidence to inform national policy makers, advocates, and advisory bodies (such as WHO and the World Bank) about writing and reforming legislation for equitable access to essential medicines as part of universal health coverage. 

Our policy tools & evidence

Normative policy checklist

The challenge
What are governments' legal obligations under international human rights law to provide essential medicines as part of UHC, and which policy actions do those duties imply?  How do those human rights obligations relate to WHO's policy guidelines for essential medicines?

Our response
We use legal analysis to translate human rights principles and public health standards into policy actions for essential medicines.
Download our practical policy checklist of 12 policy measures to be included in national law and policy for access to medicines. (forthcoming)

Analysis of laws & policies

The challenge
How should national laws and policies for universal access to essential medicines be written?  What language and concepts are used in national laws and policies to promote universal access to medicines? Are WHO's essential medicines policies and human rights principles embedded in these documents, and if so, how?

Our response
We collect and analyse domestic law and policy from mostly low- and middle-income countries using the policy checklist.
We publish our analyses by legal instrument: constitutional lawpolicylegislationcase law,
or by country case study.

Monitoring & assessment

The challenge
To what degree are national governments achieving their human rights obligations towards essential medicines?
How do specific domestic laws or policies impact universal access to medicines?

Our response
We report on right to health indicators that reflect access to essential medicines in national health systems.
These reports establish a benchmark to measure future achievements.

Our impact

Informing WHO positions

Our research on minimum core obligations is cited by the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research in its revision application for mifepristone and misoprostol considered by the 22nd WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines.

Our research on constitutional law is referenced in the 2016 WHO guide on the role of the law in advancing the right to health, in the 2011 WHO report on the constitutional right to health in the South East Asia Region, and in the WHO's presentation on access to medicines at the UN Human Rights Council Social Forum on February 18, 2015. 

Guiding model laws & legal reform

Our research is cited in the 2018 Model Drug Law for West Africa: A toolkit for policy makers published by the West Africa Commission on Drugs.

A consultant to WHO used our policy checklist to assess the 2018 draft Polish national medicines policy, which identified technical strengths and gaps in the areas of human rights, accountability, and international collaboration. The policy checklist helped policy makers and advisors address these areas of improvement during the policy making process.

Supporting policy stakeholders

Our research is cited in the Access to Medicines chapter of the Health & Human Rights Resource guide, an advocacy tool published by the FXB Centre for Health & Human Rights at Harvard University. Our work is also cited by the Lancet NCD's Action Group following the 2011 UN political declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Our indicator data was reported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health in the 2008 Lancet report on health systems & the right to health by Backman et al.

Have you used our policy tools or evidence in your work? E-mail us your story, questions, and feedback to katrina.perehudoff @ Your responses will help us refine and advance our work for more equitable access to essential medicines.

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