There are many factors which hamper health care delivery in the developing world. These factors include tariffs, taxes, corruption, such as bribes and other local price inflators on medicines and medical products. Non-tariff barriers, such as lengthy registration periods for medicines and onerous requirements to clear customs, also restrict the availability of medication in the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one-third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicine and proper medical treatment. Drawing upon extensive evidence from surveys and accounts from the field, this paper examines the impact of tariffs, taxes and other markups on imported medicines and medical products provided to lesser developed countries by pharmaceutical companies, not-for-profit groups, for-profit corporations, multilateral and bilateral aid and health agencies. The paper discusses how these regulatory barriers affect access to medication. The authors conclude that although efforts to reform the current system of government revenue generation through tariffs collection may meet resistance in many developing countries, especially those featuring systemic corruption and those with domestic production, governments which take steps to eliminate tariffs could in fact expedite health care delivery and consequently improve the well-being of their people.
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI. Richard Tren is the director of Africa Fighting Malaria. Lorraine Mooney is a medical demographer at Africa Fighting Malaria. Kathryn Boateng is a research assistant at AEI.