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The issue of access to medicines is a fundamental component of the full realization of the right to health. Medical care in the event of sickness and the prevention, and treatment and control of diseases, depends largely on timely and appropriate access to quality medicines. Previous mandate holders have extensively elaborated on the elements, obstacles, principles and responsible actors in ensuring access to medicines for all.

Despite progress made, many people still lack access to essential medicines. This is due to the obstacles that block access to medicines of good quality, in an affordable and timely way, mostly in developing countries. This challenges human dignity and the basis of all human rights, including the rights to life, health and development of all persons.

From a human rights perspective, access to medicines is intrinsically linked with the principles of equality and non-discrimination, transparency, participation, and accountability. There remains an intrinsic link between poverty and the realization of the right to health, where developing nations have the greatest need and the least access to medicines.

States are obliged to develop national health legislation and policies, and to strengthen their national health systems.