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    The 1978 Alma Ata Conference on primary health care recognized that essential drugs are vital for preventing and treating illnesses which affect millions of people throughout the world. Essential drugs save lives and improve health.

    In 1981, the World Health Organization established the Action Programme on Essential Drugs to support countries to implementing national drug policies and to work towards rational use of drugs. This work was broadened in 1998 when WHO created the department of Essential Drugs and Other Medicines (EDM), combining the responsibilities of the former DAP with WHO's global efforts to promote quality, safety, efficacy, and accurate information for all medicines.

    EDM works with countries, international agencies, NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières, and other organizations to ensure that people everywhere have access to the essential drugs they need at a price which is affordable; that the drugs are safe, effective, and of good quality; and that they are prescribed and used rationally.

    Appropriate tools are critical to the effective implementation of essential drugs policies. This practical handbook, based on Médecins Sans Frontières' field experience, is one of the tools which we strongly recommend.

    Designed to give practical, concise information to physicians, pharmacists and nurses, this “Essential drugs - practical guidelines” is an important contribution from Médecins Sans Frontières to improve the rational use of drugs, which will be a continuing challenge in the coming years.


    Dr Jonathan D. Quick
    Essential Drugs and Other medicines
    World Health Organization