06 Sep 17 08 Jan 20

Access to medicines

MSF campaigns to challenge the high cost of existing medicines and the absence of treatment for many of the diseases affecting our patients.

Today, one third of the world's population lacks access to essential medicines. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this figure rises to a half of the population.

Too often, MSF cannot treat patients because the medicines are too expensive, or they are no longer produced. Sometimes, the only drugs we have are highly toxic or ineffective and nobody is looking for a better cure.

As a medical humanitarian organization, it is unacceptable to MSF that access to essential medicines is increasingly difficult, particularly for the most common infectious diseases.

MSF works on this in three specific ways:

  • MSF Access Campaign
  • Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative
  • MSF Field Research


MSF Access Campaign

In response to the need for better treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests MSF set up its Access Campaign in 1999 to improve care for patients.

The aims of MSF Access Campaign are to:

  • Push for price cuts to medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests by stimulating the production of more affordable generic products.
  • Act as a watchdog to ensure that the corporate interests don’t win out over public health needs.
  • Steer the direction of medical research toward urgently needed new drugs, vaccines and tests that don’t exist yet or are not tailored to the needs of people in developing countries.
  • Scope out, support and monitor new models to fund medical research that responds to medical rather than corporate needs, and do not rely on charging sky high prices for the final product to pay for the research.

Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)

In 2003, MSF joined forces with six other organizations from around the world to establish the Drugs For Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), with the aim of developing new drugs or new formulations of existing drugs for patients suffering from the most neglected communicable diseases.

DNDi seeks to address unmet needs by taking on projects that others are unable or unwilling to pursue.

MSF Field Research

MSF is well known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience with vulnerable populations.

This website archives MSF's scientific articles and makes them available for free, in an easily searchable format.

Increased Research

MSF is also pushing for increased research into neglected diseases —— such as tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, and leishmaniasis —— through increased funding, investing in research and development (R&D) capability in developing countries, and supporting alternative models for R&D.

Abandoned Drugs

Some treatments are no longer produced. MSF is calling on companies and governments to find solutions to bring unprofitable but medically necessary drugs back into production.


MSF is also supporting developing countries in codifying into law the safeguards that are allowed under international trade rules in order to protect access to medicines.