Expert insight

It’s Time to Agree on Universal Health Coverage Guiding Principles

31 March 2014
  • Eduardo Pisani

With 1 billion people lacking access to basic health care and more than 2 billion people lacking regular access to essential medicines, governments are increasingly placing emphasis on the promise of universal health coverage (UHC). UHC has become an increasingly salient issue for developed and developing countries alike in the context of the global economic crisis, increasing health care demands, and still unmet medical needs. There is increasing recognition that providing quality universal health coverage is an investment in socio-economic well-being and a key contributor to the wealth and economic productivity of countries. As negotiations on a new set of UN Development Goals progress over the next 18 months, 2014 is a crucial year for global health and offers an opportunity to inject a new vision for health that spans across the health systems and, beyond, across sectors.

The innovation pharmaceutical business is one among many actors in the global health community that has in its power to bring solutions for a healthy world – solutions that make a difference to patients, to communities and society. However, translating the lofty goals of UHC needs in our opinion shared guiding principles to galvanize efforts of all those involved in global health in drawing up well-designed policies. Drawn from our technical knowledge and experience in providing access to high quality health solutions, we have identified eight guiding principles in the areas we believe our industry can contribute.

  1. Equitable Access –All people should have equitable access to essential health care services.
  2. Efficiency – Health systems should use resources effectively and efficiently.
  3. Quality – Health systems should guarantee access to quality infrastructure, service and care.
  4. Inclusiveness – Transition to and implementation of Universal Health Coverage should include engagement of all relevant stakeholders to maximize patient needs.
  5. Availability – Essential health services and products should be available to all those who need them.
  6. Adaptability – Diverse approaches should be encouraged to facilitate UHC based healthcare financing and delivery.
  7. Choice – Health systems should preserve patient choice in health care services and delivery.
  8. Innovation – Society should encourage investments in R&D across the spectrum of prevention, diagnostics, treatment, care and support.

While every country is unique and tailored approaches will be required, there are common challenges and opportunities faced by countries at all stages of UHC. It is with this in mind that we have drawn up eight guiding principles that we think stand up to the test of such diversity, and can help inform the design of global UHC policies.

The process leading to the final intergovernmental decision is complex, but we believe the business community and the biopharmaceutical industry in particular have an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to this debate and present the vision and the value that industry brings towards achieving healthier societies around the world. So, as countries work toward UHC, these principles may offer guidance to policy makers, industry, and other stakeholders who seek to improve health care and meet the health needs of all citizens.

Please tell us what you think of these principles as we move forward in partnership to improve patient access to quality medicines.


  • Eduardo Pisani