IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

To prescribe or not to prescribe : on the regulation of pharmaceuticals in less developed countries


  • Hammer, Jeffrey S.


An important source of failure in markets and justification for government intervention in the health sector of LDCs is imperfect information. Pharmaceutical use is one area in which widespread problems have been noted with substantial misuse, improper diagnosis and problems of compliance noted among both the population at large and health care providers, presumably due to a lack of information concerning appropriate use. One possible instrument vis-a-vis the regulation of pharmaceuticals in LDCs is the decision by public health officials to make a particular drug available over the counter (OTC) to consumers or to require a prescription from a licensed professional. The choice is one of balancing two competing risks. On the one hand, allowing self-prescription by the consumers who do not have medical training runs the risk of gross errors of diagnosis and mistaken prescriptions with possibly serious health consequences. On the other hand, requiring the intervention of a skilled professional incurs the risk that the patient does not receive the appropriate, potentially life saving, drug at all. With medical personnel in very short supply in many parts of the developing world, the real cost of visiting licensed medical facilities can be prohibitively high. This paper presents a very general methodology for evaluating the tradeoff between these competing risks.

Suggested Citation

  • Hammer, Jeffrey S., 1991. "To prescribe or not to prescribe : on the regulation of pharmaceuticals in less developed countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 589, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:589

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Temin, Peter, 1983. "Costs and benefits in switching drugs from Rx to OTC," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 187-205, December.
    2. Foster, S. D., 1990. "Improving the supply and use of essential drugs in sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 456, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Chatterjee, Chirantan & Mohapatra, Debi Prasad & Estay, Manuel, 2019. "From courts to markets: New evidence on enforcement of pharmaceutical bans in India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 237(C), pages 1-1.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:589. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.