The pandemic has made healthcare a top priority for the world, and every country wants to bolster its defenses against future health crises. Unfortunately, people in developing countries still do not have access to essential medicines and vaccines. Infectious diseases continue to wreak havoc in these countries, and mortality rates run high. Even life expectancy is far lower than the average in developed nations.
The worst part is that several hurdles impede the supply of medicines to these parts of the world. The situation is unfair because a large part of the world’s population suffers due to the inequality in access to pharmaceuticals. But addressing this concern is mainly about understanding the challenges first. Let us highlight the common hurdles in making medicines accessible to developing countries.
Lack of knowledge and awareness
Before the logistic barriers, developing countries struggle with a lack of knowledge and awareness. In fact, remote areas do not even have diagnostic facilities for testing and detecting diseases. The lack of medical facilities in such locations leads to a minimal understanding of the treatment options, including medication and therapies for existing and new diseases. Not being aware of medical issues makes it impossible for patients to consider the apt treatment alternatives. Even if medicines are accessible and available, patients hardly know about their suitability for the specific health issue.
Most essential and life-saving products are made by pharmaceutical companies located in the US, China, and India. Sending them to developing countries in other parts of the world entails complex challenges. Thankfully, international trade is open for pharmaceutical companies, and they can supply life-saving medicines worldwide. They only need to register their products to ship them worldwide. But shipping medicines overseas is easier said than done because registration processes have strict requirements that differ from location to location. Duties and taxes can be painful, but a customs broker can iron out the challenges. Further, paperwork is a daunting availability barrier as shipping pharmaceutics involves endless documentation.
The challenges of sending medicines to developing countries do not end with shipping them legally. At times, patients are unable to access products even when they are successfully registered. Unlike developed countries, these nations do not have a network of hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies where patients can buy medicines. Limited transport facilities and the absence of home delivery options are also barriers to accessibility. In these circumstances, accessing medicines is practically impossible for patients in remote areas. The only way to address the concern is by local authorities taking significant steps to ensure convenient access to these products regardless of the location of the patients.
Affordability is another hurdle that limits access to life-saving products for patients in developing countries. Not all countries have generous healthcare systems where governments cover the cost of medicines and care of their citizens. Most developing countries have low- and middle-income populations that cannot afford the medications they require for treatment. Millions of people die every year only because they cannot buy medicines to deal with severe conditions or even curable diseases and infections. Pharmaceutical companies need to step in to address this barrier and ensure affordability by assessing people’s ability to pay. Moreover, they should set country-specific base prices according to the income levels of the population.
Lack of acceptance
Lack of acceptance is perhaps the most serious concern because patients fail to use a drug even if it is available, accessible, and affordable. Several factors influence the acceptability of medication. For example, the ease of taking a drug decides the willingness of a patient to adhere to it. An ingestible tablet is far more convenient than an injectable drug. The size, shape, and color of the medicine also decide the acceptance levels. In some countries, people fail to accept medicines because of their religious beliefs and cultural barriers. Manufacturers can do their bit by responding top population-specific concerns and aligning their products with their beliefs and fears in mind.
Access to medicine in developing countries is an issue of global concern as it can affect life expectancy and mortality rates in these nations. People struggling with low incomes and living in remote parts suffer the most as some cannot access quality care while others cannot afford it. However, pharmaceutical manufacturers in developed nations can play a significant role in recognizing and resolving these barriers that stand in the way of equality. The right approach and mindset can save millions of lives every year and make the world a better place with everyone getting equal access to good health.