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Open Access Research article

Measuring access to medicines: a review of quantitative methods used in household surveys

Vera Maria V Paniz12*, Anaclaudia G Fassa1, Maria de Fátima S Maia1, Marlos R Domingues13 and Andréa D Bertoldi12

Author Affiliations

1 Programa de Pós-graduação em Epidemiologia, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

2 Programa de Pós-graduação em Saúde Coletiva, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, Brazil

3 Programa de Pós-Graduação em Educação Física, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:146  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-146

Published: 30 May 2010



Medicine access is an important goal of medicine policy; however the evaluation of medicine access is a subject under conceptual and methodological development. The aim of this study was to describe quantitative methodologies to measure medicine access on household level, access expressed as paid or unpaid medicine acquisition.


Searches were carried out in electronic databases and health institutional sites; within references from retrieved papers and by contacting authors.


Nine papers were located. The methodologies of the studies presented differences in the recall period, recruitment of subjects and medicine access characterization.


The standardization of medicine access indicators and the definition of appropriate recall periods are required to evaluate different medicines and access dimensions, improving studies comparison. Besides, specific keywords must be established to allow future literature reviews about this topic.