Providing affordable essential medicines to African households: The missing policies and institutions for price containment

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Medicines are integral of any healthcare system, and limited access to medicines undermines health systems’ objectives of equity, efficiency and health development. In African countries, where it is estimated that 50–60% of the populace lack ‘‘access’’ to essential medicines, health problems associated with limited drug benefits are more damaging. However, there is no single solution to medicine access problem given its multiple dimensions: availability, acceptability, affordability and accessibility. This paper explores affordability dimension of medicine access and concentrates solely on price regulatory policies and institutional structures that national and international policy makers may consider in making prices of essential drugs compatible to the purchasing power of African households. The main theme is the application of the concept of bilateral dependence in creating price-sensitive purchasers to exert countervailing market power on drug price setting in African healthcare systems