NGOs, consumer rights and access to essential medicines: non-governmental public action in a low-income market context

If medicines are obtained by a low income population largely through market exchange, then consumer rights become a key aspect of the right to health, and hence a key aspect of tackling severe injustice and inequality. In Tanzania and India, where market-based access to medicines is dominant, regulation of retail sales is also weak and impoverished consumers lack necessary information about the medicines they are buying. As a result they face, unprotected, dangers of the medicine markets that may include substandard medicines, incomplete treatment, inappropriate and even dangerous treatments, over-priced medicines, worsening impoverishment and/or exclusion for inability to pay, and rising anti-microbial resistance. We document just how vulnerable medicines consumers are in these circumstance, and the lack of effective consumer protection. We argue that consumers cannot place their trust in the market transaction alone to gain access to rational treatment with essential medicines. In these circumstances, non-governmental public action has an important role to play. We conclude that local and international non-governmental public action can do much more to promote consumer rights as one key route to the promotion of the right to health of impoverished populations.
Year of Publication
Book Title
Non-Governmental Public Action and Social Justice
Number of Pages
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN Number
Series Title
Non-Governmental Public Action Series