Medicines are essential for the prevention and treatment of diseases, and thus also for the protection of public health. They are also responsible for a substantial part of health care costs. In a number of countries in transition in the WHO European Region, ensuring regular access to good-quality, safe and affordable medicines is still a challenge: a one-month treatment of simple hypertension, for example, can cost up to 35 days' wages, most of which is paid out of pocket.

WHO/Europe works with countries to help them ensure that people have equitable access to affordable medicines of assured quality, and that medicines will be prescribed and used appropriately by:

  • providing direct technical and policy support to countries (especially countries in transition);
  • facilitating networks on policies related to drug regulation, quality, pricing, reimbursement and responsible use;
  • building capacity through training and setting up systems for the regulation, provision and use of medicines in countries;
  • providing evidence-based tools for implementing pharmaceutical policies;
  • supporting monitoring of implementation of policies in countries and networking among countries and professionals;
  • working in partnership with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; the European Union; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the United Nations Children's Fund; the World Bank; nongovernmental organizations; and academic and professional institutions and networks; and
  • working closely with WHO headquarters, particularly with the essential medicines and health products programme.