Anticancer medicines in Pakistan: An analysis of essential medicines lists

Sundus Shukar, Rehan Anjum, Jinwei Zhang, Zaheer Babar, Iqra Mobeen, Caijun Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The lack of anticancer drugs for curative and supportive purposes is the critical reason for the low survival rate in low-and-middle-income countries. This study aims to analyze whether the National Essential Medicines List (NEML) and Registered Essential Medicines List (REML) are in concordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines List (EML) and whether the formularies prevalent in the country are parallel to each other and to the NEML.
Method: An observational study design was used in which antineoplastic drugs from the 2021 NEML and REML were compared with 2021 WHO EML to evaluate their availability in Pakistan. Market access was determined. Moreover, the formularies of six different hospital types were compared with each other and with the NEML, and REML to estimate the availability within hospitals.
Results: There were 66 anticancer drugs in 2021 WHO EML and all were found in Pakistan’s 2021 NEML but only 48 drugs (73%) were found in the REML. Hydroxycarbamide and dasatinib were two registered drugs absent in all hospitals’ formularies. The market access for anticancer medicines was 73% (48 of 66). Semigovernment hospital (86%) has the highest availability, followed by the government hospital (80%). All the hospitals have unregistered drugs including bortezomib, lenalidomide, and mesna.
Conclusion: Pakistan’s NEML adopts WHO EML abruptly but all medicines are not registered. The hospitals are trying their best to increase availability but optimum drug regulations to revise NEML based on the country’s requirements and emphasizing registration of anticancer medicines are needed to improve the country’s availability of antineoplastic agents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice
Issue number1
Early online date2 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


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