Medicines in Health Systems

The goal of the Medicines in Health Systems Thematic Working Group is to facilitate positive change in medicines availability, access, affordability, and use, by informing and facilitating dialogue among different stakeholders in systems.

Key Activities

In-person meetings

Member communications


Setting the scene - the role of medicines in health systems

The goal of health care delivery systems is to provide needed, high quality care, particularly for vulnerable populations, to improve individual and population health; the goal of health financing systems is to protect individuals and households from undue financial burden of out-of-pocket expenses, while ensuring system efficiency and sustainability.  At multiple points in health systems, medicines contribute to achieving, or impeding, these goals.

Medicines are major contributors to the health and well-being of individuals and populations when used appropriately. They waste resources when used unnecessarily or incorrectly.  Global medicines spending has surpassed US $1 trillion per year and accounts for up to 67% of total health expenditures in some countries, mostly paid out of pocket by households.  At the same time, medicines constitute three of the top ten sources of waste of scarce health system resources.  Waste is due, among other factors, to underuse of quality generic products; taxes and tariffs increasing product prices at different levels; unreliable availability of medicines in public sector facilities; substandard and falsified products in markets; and inappropriate use of medicines, including overuse of antibiotics and underuse of proven therapies for chronic conditions. Meanwhile, households face impoverishment due to paying for medicines while patients die prematurely because they lack access to lifesaving medicines.

To improve medicines situations, multiple stakeholders from different parts of health systems need to share their different views of medicines in health systems, engage across boundaries in dialogue to better understand each other, balance their competing or converging interests, and find ways to create change.

Objectives of the TWG

  1. Highlight the importance of medicines in health systems among Health System Global Members, Thematic Working Groups, and beyond;

  2. Identify the needs of stakeholders to effectively address medicines situations in health systems;

  3. Facilitate constructive dialogue among stakeholders within and across systems, with the goal of generating ideas for innovations in how medicines are produced, delivered, financed, and used in pluralistic health systems;

  4. Strengthen capacity of Health System Global Members and others in generating evidence on medicines in health systems, with the goal of establishing a portfolio of evidence on the impacts of medicines management and policy approaches within and across systems;

  5. Disseminate applied research evidence and other policy-relevant information early and efficiently to each relevant system stakeholder

Group facilitators

  • Sachiko Ozawa

    Co-Chair of Thematic Working Group
  • Raja Shankar

    Co-Chair of Thematic working group
  • Christine Leopold

    Coordinator of Thematic Working Group

Issue 1: Medicines in Health Systems Quarterly

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the Medicines in Health Systems Quarterly newsletter. This newsletter is curated by the Medicines in Health Systems Thematic Working Group of Health Systems Global, which aims to facilitate positive change in medicines availability, access, affordability, and use, by informing and facilitating dialogue among different stakeholders.

View now

Get involved

Activities that members of this thematic working group contribute to include: 

  • volunteer to reach out to different stakeholders with information on medicines in health systems

  • contribute to the quarterly newsletter on medicines and health systems research

  • contribute information on medicines to drive health systems change and share ideas

  • generate and share evidence on medicines in health systems from different perspectives through our LinkedIn group

  • collaborate with others interested in medicines in health systems.

Please share your work with the group, and please propose activities you volunteer to lead or would participate in. Please contact any one of the group’s facilitators with questions or comments.

Join our group