Objectives: Developing countries face considerable problems in both accessing and properly utilizing essential medicines. One challenge to achieving these goals in resource-poor settings is a limited knowledge base as to what works to improve the selection, access and use of essential medicines including; ways to ensure affordable prices, increase sustainable financing, and strengthen reliable supply systems that are relevant to these settings. The objective of this study was to search the existing evidence base on access to medicine issues in developing countries and to assess publication patterns regarding the nature of topics studied, areas where gaps of information exist and the general trends in publications in this area.
Methods: A PubMed search was conducted to retrieve publications on access to medicines in developing countries between 1999-2008. Our search strategy builds and expands on a search strategy developed for a Cochrane review to include a wider range of topics related to access to medicines and pharmaceutical policy. Retrieved articles were categorized by research topics, year of publication, study area, and country of residence of corresponding author to establish patterns in publications with respect to these categories over the past 10 years.
Results: Medicine selection, intellectual property rights, and monitoring and quality assurance were among the top topics studied over the last 10 years. Corresponding authors residing in high-income countries represented around 50% of all publications relative to low-income (18%) and middle-income countries (32%). Although an increasing trend in the number of publications per year was found, the increase was relatively small and variable over a 10-year period.
Conclusions: There are few peer-reviewed publications on access to medicines in developing countries with an average of only 76 publications per year over the past 10 years. Increasing the local evidence base as to what works to improve access to medicines in resource poor countries, particularly to the poor, is of the utmost priority to accelerating the achievement of global medicine goals.
Keywords: Access to Medicines; Bibliometrics; Drug Utilization; Essential Medicines.