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Access to medicines in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC): a scoping study
  1. Isabel Cristina Martins Emmerick1,
  2. Maria Auxiliadora Oliveira1,
  3. Vera Lucia Luiza1,
  4. Thiago Botelho Azeredo1,
  5. Maryam Bigdeli2
  1. 1Nucleus for Pharmaceutical Policies, National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  2. 2Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vera Lucia Luiza; negritudesenior{at}, vera{at}


Objective To assess scientific publication and map research gaps on access to medicines (ATM) in Latin American and the Caribbean low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC).

Design Scoping review. Two independent reviewers assessed studies for inclusion and extracted data from each study.

Information sources Search strategies were developed and the following databases were searched: MEDLINE, ISI, SCOPUS and Lilacs, from 2000 to 2010.

Eligibility criteria Research articles and reviews published in English, Spanish and Portuguese were included. Studies including only high-income countries were excluded, as well as those carried out in very limited settings and discussion papers.

Results The 77 articles retained were categorised through consensus among the research team according to the level of the health system addressed, ATM domain and research issues covered. Publications on ATM have increased over time during the study period (r 0.93, p=0.00; R2 0.85). The top five countries covered were Brazil (68.8%), Mexico (15.6%), Colombia (11.7%), Argentina (10.4%) and Peru (10.4%). ‘Health services delivery’ and ‘patients, household and communities’ were the health system levels most frequently covered. The ATM domains ‘leadership and governance’, ‘sustainable financing, affordability and price of medicines’, ‘medicines selection and use’ and ‘availability of medicines’ were the top four explored. There are research gaps in important areas such as ‘human resources for health’, ‘global policies and human rights’, ‘production of medicines’ and ‘traditional medicine’.

Conclusions The upward trend on scientific publication reflects a growing research capacity in the region, which is concentrated on research teams in selected countries. The gaps on research capacity could be overcome through research collaboration among countries. It is important to strengthen these collaborations, assuring that interests and needs from the LMIC are addressed and local capacity building is promoted.

  • Access to medicines
  • Bibliometrics
  • Scoping study
  • Low and middle-income countries
  • Latin America
  • Caribbean region

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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