Once every seven years world experts meet to discuss the use use of medicines in low- and middle income countries at the International Conference on Improving the Use of Medicines (ICIUM). RIH staff has attended the first and second ICIUM conferences, and presented at this year’s ICIUM, held in Antalya, Turkey, from November 14-18.

Delegates from over 80 countries who attended ICIUM heard similar stories from countries from all over the world - how life-saving treatments for malaria are not available in public and private pharmacies of East Africa; how local manufacturers continue to produce and promote malaria drugs that the World Health Organization does not recommend to be marketed and used ; and how large percentages of the price of medicines are to cover a variety of taxes, fees, markups and other price increasing factors. ICIUM attendees also learned that more people in developing countries die from chronic diseases such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes, than from infectious diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis. Unfortunately not all governments are aware of these factors that limit access.

But there was also good news. The medicines for a year of treatment of such chronic diseases can cost very little - provided they are bought as generic (off-patent) medicines and provided cost increasing factors can be limited to realistic amounts. Other discussions surrounded state-of-the-art knowledge about improving medicines use, formulating strategies for different levels in the health care systems, identifying ways to monitor and evaluate such strategies, developing a future research agenda, and developing a strategy for disseminating findings. RiH presented on efforts to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy in projects financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, while RIH Senior Consultants Klara Tisocki and Douglas Ball presentated on: “Efficiency of Public Procurement of Medicines in the Philippines”, and “Out of Pocket and Out of Reach: The Unaffordability and Unavailability of Medicines in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”.

Being a long-term supporter of the access to medicines movement, RiH staff will be involved in the further development of ICIUM’s outcomes and in finetuning its research agenda, and implement some of its research.

Hilbrand Haak, Director of ResultsinHealth and a veteran in the essential medicines movement said that “ICIUM has been a landmark event since drug use research and policy making has gained momentum. This event once again showed that access to medicines can be created by careful use of evidence. While evidence is often there, we now need to make sure that it is applied sensibly into improved public health policies.”