Access to Controlled Medicines in Low-Income Countries: Listening to Stakeholders in the Field

Agnes Vitry, Gilles Forte, Jason White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Little is known on current practices and challenges associated with the legal trade of medicines controlled under international conventions in low-income countries. This qualitative survey involved semi-structured interviews of stakeholders engaged in the trade of controlled medicines at a global level or at a country level in 3 African countries (Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo). Nine interviews were conducted, including 3 international wholesalers, 2 relief organizations, 2 procurement officers, and 2 regulatory officers. Additionally, 4 other participants provided written information. All participants consistently reported that the current process of procuring controlled medicines in compliance with international conventions was long and complex given the number of administrative steps required for obtaining export and import authorizations, which are mandatory for both narcotic and psychotropic medicines. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain import authorizations from some health authorities in low-income countries because of long delays, mistakes in forms, absence or shortage of staff, or when annual national estimates are exceeded. The complexities of the trade of controlled medicines directly contribute to the lack of access to essential controlled medicines, both narcotics and psychotropics, in low-income countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-411
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2021


  • analgesics
  • developing countries
  • health care disparities
  • health policy
  • opioid/therapeutic use
  • pain/drug therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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