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From the World Health Organization
December 25, 2002

Essential Medicines: 25 Years of Better Health

JAMA. 2002;288(24):3102. doi:10.1001/jama.288.24.3102

Essential medicines save lives and improve health for millions of people around the world. But millions more have little or no access to safe, high-quality medicines. This huge gap between the potential to save lives and the reality for millions of poor people for whom medicines are unavailable, unaffordable, unsafe, or improperly used must be bridged.

Essential medicines are those that satisfy priority health care needs. They are selected according to need, efficacy, safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness. They are intended to be available, within the context of functioning health systems, at all times and in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosage forms, with insured quality, adequate information, and at a price that individuals and communities can afford.