Four decades of the Essential Medicines Concept: a perspective from a tertiary healthcare facility in South-South Nigeria

[Speaker] Ambrose O. Isah:1,2
[Co-author] Stephen A. Ayinbuomwan:1,2, Abimbola O. Opadeyi:1,2
1:Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria, 2:Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Unit, Department of Medicine University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria

The Essential Medicines (EM) Concept crystallized into a drug supply programme four decades ago and can be regarded as one of the major contributions of the WHO to healthcare in the seven decades of its existence. The Action Programme on EM, the establishment of a funding mechanism ensured supply of medicines in resource limiited settings (RLS) as well as its rational, safe and cost effective use. This study is intended to assess the current status, understanding and level of penetration of the concept amongst health professionals in a tertiary healthcare facility after four decades of its introduction.
The study was carried out at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital Benin Nigeria - a tertiary healthcare facility with over 800 beds. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to health professionals (doctors, nurses and phaemacists) in the hospital wards and pharmacy over a seven month period - January - July 2017. Information sought included the biodata, awareness of the EM Concept, publication and use of the EM List, the perceived advantages and disadvantages and suggestions on how to improve the programme. The findings are represented as the frequency (percentages) and Mean/SD.
The response rate of 92.7% (278/300) was obtained for questionnaires distributed. The participants (131 Male), aged 31.9 (SD 7.3) years included Doctors 155, Nurses 58, Pharmacists 22, Not Stated 43. EML awareness was 65.8% (183/278) with 139/278 (50.0%) having received lessons on the subject; 108/278 (38.8%) while as students. Awareness of the timing of the initial introduction of the EML at the National level was 3/278 (1.1%) with 0% aware of the current edition of the National EML. A satisfactory description of the EML was obtained from 76/278 (27.3%) participants. Again only 54/278 (19.4%) admitted to using the National EML, with 52/278 (18.7%) rating the entire EM program as successful
These findings may highlight the poor appreciation, penetration and utilization of the laudable EM Concept and Programme among health professionals four decades after its introduction. There is urgent need to rejuvenate this concept on which hinges the rational supply and safe use of medicines especially in RLS
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