Access to medicines in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

March 24, 2012

An article published recently in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal (WHO/EMRO) reviews the current situation concerning access to medicines in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The author, Lamiaa M. Elsayed, an individual IFHHRO member, examined the policies, constitutional provisions and other legal instruments of the Member States. Access to essential medicines is an important element of the international agreements on the right to health.


The constitutions of 18 out of 22 EMR countries enshrine health as a human right:

  • 8 countries have a duty statement
  • 5 have a programmatic statement
  • 5 specify entitlement

Only 4 countries in the region do not enshrine health as a human right in a clause in their constitution.

More than half the countries (i.e. 12) have an official national medicines policy,4 have a draft policy and 6 have no national medicines policy. A total of 11 countries operate an essential medicines list.

Nevertheless, the article concludes that the situation in the region is alarming with regards to access to medicines as a human right to health. “Most of the states’  legal provisions need to be revised and reformed in order to comply with the international legal instruments that the countries have willingly and voluntarily ratified. In practice, many human rights are difficult to enforce legally due to ‘the absence of a consensus on the application of certain rights, the lack of relevant national legislation or the lack of an enforcement mechanism’. It is not only the problem of scarcity of funds that impedes access to essential medicines, as sometimes such funds are available, but that drugs are wasted due to the lack of qualified personnel and adequate planning.”

L.M. Elsayed, Efficacy of constitutional support to enhance access to essential medicines as a human right to health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, Volume 18, No.1, January, 2012