The relevance of systematic reviews on pharmaceutical policy to low- and middle-income countries
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Background Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) rely on available evidence when devising and implementing pharmaceutical policies. Aim of the review To provide a critical overview of systematic reviews of pharmaceutical policies, with particular focus on the relevance of such reviews in low- and middle-income countries. Methods A search for systematic reviews (SRs) of studies of the interventions of interest was conducted until May 2009 in MEDLINE, EconLit, CINAHL, the Cochrane site, ProQuest, EMBASE, JOLIS, ISI Web of Science, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, International Network for Rational Use of Drugs, National Technical Information Service, Public Affairs Information Service, SourceOECD, the System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe, and the WHO library database. The search was updated to July 2013, based on the yields of the initial search strategy. Results 20 SRs that met all inclusion criteria were retrieved in full text. Four SRs were subsequently rejected on the basis of quality considerations and the findings of 16 SRs were extracted and their applicability in LMICs considered. Of these, 5 were Cochrane Reviews. All included SRs were published in English. SRs related to registration and classification policies, marketing policies, prescribing policies, reimbursement policies, policies on price and payments, co-payments and caps and multi-component policies were retrieved. No SRs related to patent and profit policies, sales and dispensing policies, policies that regulate the provision of health insurance, or policies on patient information were retrieved. Conclusion Only one of the systematic reviews retrieved utilised a study conducted in a developing country. The direct applicability of the evidence from these SRs in LMICs is limited. However, as middle-income countries move towards universal health coverage, the multi-component policies that govern reimbursement for medicines, and which impose caps on payments and co-payments by patients, may become more applicable. As such they will have direct implications for the practice of clinical pharmacy in such settings. Considerable effort will be needed to systemically review the available primary evidence from studies conducted in developing country settings, where such data exist.
KeywordsClinical pharmacy Low- and middle-income countries Pharmaceutical policies
The assistance of Kent Ransom and Maryam Bigdeli, and the comments provided on drafts of the initial overview by Richard Laing and Kris Weerasuriya, are acknowledged with thanks.
The initial overview was prepared for the Alliance for Health Policy and System Research, World Health Organization, and supported by an Agreement for Performance of Work (Project HQHSR0801837). The initial overview was presented as a poster at the 3rd International Conference on Improving Use of Medicines, Antalya, Turkey, 2011.
Conflicts of interest
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