World Health Organization established the concept of essential medicines with the main aim to improve the availability of most necessary drugs to fulfil basic health care needs of population. Access to essential medicines is one of the crucial components of primary health care. Access to medicines is included in millennium development goals as well as universal health coverage policy. In 2000, India made a policy “Health for All” and one of the main objective of this policy is to ensure availability of quality medicines at reasonable cost to the society. The overall budget on medicines differs widely in different states of India and as a result their access is also highly variable. This review will emphasis on essential medicine concept and report of various research surveys conducted to evaluate availability of essential medicines in different parts of India. An exhaustive literature search was planned to study the availability of essential medicines in India. The search engines used were PubMed and Google Scholar. Relevant keywords were used to make the searches such as essential medicines concept, essential medicines report, essential medicine research in India, availability of essential medicines in India. The articles published in English language between the years 2003 and 2017 were extracted and included. The findings of these studies were summarized into a narrative review.
Key words: Essential medicines, Public health, Government sector, Private sector, Health for All, National policy, Universal health coverage.