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Social networks and health policy: The case of misoprostol and the WHO model essential medicine list

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Colin MillardORCiD, Dr Petra SevcikovaORCiD, Professor Allyson PollockORCiD


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© 2015.The WHO Essential Medicines List (EML) was established to help countries prioritise medicines according to their health care needs. Selection for the List is based on rigorous scrutiny of public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost effectiveness. The WHO ideal is that a medicine and its efficacy are based on science, but in reality a medicine has a social life and the acceptance of a pharmaceutical intervention involves the interaction of a wide array of governmental and civil society organisations, and industry. Misoprostol is a medicine widely used for both abortion and prevention of postpartum haemorrhage in low income countries. Although the evidence for the latter is highly contested it was nevertheless added to the WHO EML in 2011. We use social network analysis to examine the social, political and economic field surrounding the WHO EML applications and health policy. We describe a chronology of the drug's use and of the applications to the WHO EML and carry out a social network analysis of the organisations and individuals involved in the applications, research and dissemination. The research identified a network of 238 organisations and individuals involved in the promotion of misoprostol for postpartum haemorrhage and present at the time of the WHO EML applications. There is a strong interdependency between the funding bodies, civil society organisations, researchers and clinician organisations. The research was part of an EU FP7 funded project on Accessing Medicines in Africa and South Asia (2010-2013).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Millard C, Brhlikova P, Pollock A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Science and Medicine

Year: 2015

Volume: 132

Pages: 190-196

Print publication date: 01/05/2015

Online publication date: 10/03/2015

Acceptance date: 01/01/2015

ISSN (print): 0277-9536

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5347

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.03.011

PubMed id: 25818380


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