WHO offers guideline on managing pharmaceutical prices
Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.Sep 29 2020
Unaffordable prices can be one of the biggest barriers to access to pharmaceutical products. A new WHO guideline for countries on managing pharmaceutical prices aims to help governments overcome this barrier and better address national public health needs.
Pharmaceutical pricing policies need to be carefully planned and carried out, and to be regularly checked and revised according to changing conditions. Strong, well-thought-out policies can guide well-informed and balanced decisions to achieve affordable access to essential health products.
More than 50 independent experts, researchers, external reviewers from a range of stakeholder groups, and WHO staff were involved in assessing and evaluating current scientific evidence and country experiences in order to prepare the guideline.
It covers ten pricing policy approaches:
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The guideline strongly recommends that countries promote the use of quality-assured generic and biosimilar medicines. This includes enabling early market entry of these medicines, using multiple policies to achieve lower prices through greater market competition, and a suite of policies to maximize uptake of these medicines and public confidence.
The need for price transparency
Price transparency is essential for designing and implementing sound pricing policies. The guideline suggests countries promote price transparency through a range of mechanisms, including sharing the net transaction prices of pharmaceutical products with relevant stakeholders and along the supply and distribution chain.
WHO's long-standing commitment
WHO has a long-standing commitment to work with countries to ensure essential medicines are more affordable to individual people and to the health system. The WHO Essential Medicines List, updated every two years, has been a global reference for medicines access since 1978, and the Organization's Prequalification programme has played a critical role in expanding access to quality-assured priority medicines, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS.
In the coming years, WHO will continue to work with countries to develop sound pharmaceutical pricing policies, including by running training workshops with country stakeholders and enabling discussion and information sharing through the Fair Pricing Forum