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Heart Health in Developing Countries Jeopardized by Expensive Medication

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Heart Health in Developing Countries Jeopardized by Expensive Medication
January 02
14:30 2017

Commonly found in medicine cabinets in the developed world, aspirin can easily be taken for granted. For many in developing countries, however, over-the-counter heart-health drugs can save lives. There’s just one problem: it’s often unaffordable.

Reported in The Lancet, a new study finds cardiovascular medicines (including aspirin, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and statins) are only affordable and reasonably available in 25 percent of urban areas and 3 percent of rural areas in developing countries. This falls short of the World Health Organization’s goal to have preventative cardiovascular medicine available in 80 percent of communities and used by 50 percent of individuals who need it within the next 10 years.

As the map below shows, cardiovascular disease mortality rates are lower in Western countries where access to this medication is convenient and affordable. Countries with large rural areas, like Russia, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Mongolia and Afghanistan are among the countries with the highest cardiovascular mortality rates.

For every one person who dies of cardiovascular disease in Canada, eight people die from it in Turkmenistan.

The study looked into the number of local pharmacies that carried each of the four preventative drug types for heart disease. Medication was deemed affordable if the total price for all four cost less than 20 percent of household income, after basic needs. The drugs did not meet this requirement in 60 percent of low-income countries. The one notable exception being India.

Preventative medicine can help drive down mortality rates if made cheap and attainable. Beyond extending lives, these medications can ultimately stave off other hardships of illness, including disability and loss of income.

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