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OnderzoekGroningen Centre for Law and GovernanceExpertisecentraGlobal Health Law Groningen Research CentreAccess to medicines

Access to medicines through domestic legislation and policy for universal health coverage

One in three people in developing countries cannot access medicines they need. Universal health coverage (UHC) has been proposed as a way to enable the ill in low-income settings to access health goods and services such as essential medicines while protecting against catastrophic expenses that can push the vulnerable into poverty. UHC is therefore crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and especially SGD 3 for health.

Universal access to medicines can be achieved by national governments in various ways, such as by enshrining access in domestic law and/or developing national policies that may include medicines in UHC schemes. This project documents and analyses different legal approaches to promoting access in low and middle income countries as part of the right to health.

Using research results to improve access

Domestic legislation uncovered in this project is used in ongoing PhD research to identify model laws for universal access to medicines using a human rights approach. Ultimately, the best practices in legislating and policy making for universal access can be used as model legislation for other willing governments.

In 2015, this research was submitted to the WHO's call for case studies 'Building an evidence base around human rights approaches to health'. To date, the raw data in 15 country case studies is available below and on the WHO's website .


Each nation has its own unique legal and healthcare systems that shape medicines prescribing and access, making each nation a laboratory for pharmaceutical policy experiments. Each country profile developed in this project provides an overview of the domestic legal and healthcare contexts followed by a selection of relevant national laws using primary legal sources wherever possible.

Open call for research assistance

We are currently seeking (volunteer) research assistants to compile country profiles. Our priority countries are:

  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Indonesia
  • Mongolia
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Bolivia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Tunisia (in French)
  • Libya
  • Lebanon
  • Algeria (in French)
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Belarus
  • Romania

Knowledge of the country’s health or legal system and fluency in foreign languages are strong assets. You are also welcome to suggest a country to study. To get involved, submit your motivation via email to

Past presentations

Winter Pharmaceutical Policy Meeting 2016 hosted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Regulation at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Presentation title ' A human rights approach to essential medicines: Tracking progress in 195 health systems

European Association of Health Law organised their 5th Conference in 2015 in the Czech Republic, Presentation title 'Access to medicines in Europe: A role for cross border care to improve country performance?

Workshop on International Law and Domestic Law-Making Processes (2015) hosted by the Faculty of Law, University of Basel, Switzerland, Presentation title 'The implementation of the human right to essential medicines in domestic legislation

Winter Pharmaceutical Policy Meeting 2015 hosted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Regulation at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Presentation title 'The right to health and essential medicines in national constitutions: A global inventory'

Contact information

  • Prof. dr. Brigit Toebes , Associate Professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow, Department of International and Constitutional Law, Faculty of Law
  • Prof dr. Hans V. Hogerzeil , Professor of Global Health and the Right to Health, University of Groningen Medical Center
  • Katrina Perehudoff , PhD Candidate, Faculty of Medical Sciences ( )

Related articles

Project history

The Essential Laws for Medicine Access (ELMA) project started in 2010 as a collaboration between the Widener School of Law ( Prof Michelle Forzley ) and the Department of Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies of the World Health Organization in Geneva (Dr. Hans Hogerzeil). The first ELMA report presents a standard format for analyzing national legislation in support of universal access to essential medicines. The report also presents pilot studies on the legislation of Australia, the Netherlands, South Africa and Tonga. GHLG Research Centre, in collaboration with the WHO in Geneva and Professor Michelle Forzley, now affiliated to the O Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, uses the first ELMA format as a starting point for further country studies.

Katrina Perehudof
Katrina Perehudof

Contact information

Project leader: Katrina Perehudoff,

Laatst gewijzigd:01 december 2017 15:22