According to the World Health Organisation, essential drugs are "those that satisfy the primary health care needs of the population."

To promote this idea, in 1995 SATELLIFE and a group of volunteer moderators started E-Drug, the English language discussion group of Its objective is to support the concept of essential drugs by improving and speeding up communications among all health professionals working in the field of essential drugs. Discussions focus on topics such as rational use of drugs, drug policy, economics and financing, supply and marketing, legislation and regulation, quality assurance and safety, and training. E-drug is specifically targeted to health workers in developing countries, and is based on simple off-line e-mail technology.

WHO further recommends that "essential medicines are selected with due regard to disease prevalence, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness. Essential medicines are intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality, and at a price the individual and the community can afford."

The concept of essential drugs was launched in 1977, and became one of the eight pillars of WHO's "Primary Health Care" strategy. Every two years an expert committee updates the WHO list of essential drugs. The list serves as a model for countries to adapt to their needs.

The essential drugs concept can be applied in all countries, and at various levels (national, provincial, district, hospital). The essential drug concept is especially valuable in poor-resource settings, as it allows one to get the best medicines for the resources available. The concentration on a few essential drugs has also lowered prices, due to economies of scale.

The website was launched in 2002 (the 25th anniversary of the essential drug concept) as there is a growing need to collect, store and exchange essential drug information among health workers. We would like to collect National Drug Policy documents, Essential Drug Lists, National Formularies, Standard Treatment Guidelines and price/quality information from all countries and regions. If your national documents are not yet available, please email them to this address:

In 2002, WHO changed the name of "essential drugs" into "essential medicines." In this website, essential drugs and essential medicines have the same meaning.

E-DRUG Spin-offs

French (E-MED) and Spanish (E-FARMACOS) language versions followed in 1998 and 2000. These discussion groups have their own character, as they serve different communities. To support the creation of an international network of drug information centres, INDICES was initiated in 1997. In 2002, INDIA-DRUG was started to foster a national email discussion group on the rational use of drugs. SATELLIFE staff and the moderators of E-DRUG, E-MED, E-FARMACOS, and INDICES are willing to support other regional or special interest groups.

The SATELLIFE staff and moderators welcome your visit to!