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In recent years a number of intergovernmental initiatives have been activated in order to enhance the capacity of countries to improve access to essential medicines, particularly for mental disorders. In May 2013 the 66th World Health Assembly adopted the World Health Organization (WHO) Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, which builds upon the work of WHO's Mental Health Gap Action Programme. Within this programme, evidence-based guidelines for mental disorders were developed, including recommendations on appropriate use of medicines. Subsequently, the 67th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on access to essential medicines, which urged Member States to improve national policies for the selection of essential medicines and to promote their availability, affordability and appropriate use.
Following the precedent set by these important initiatives, this article presents eleven actions for improving access and appropriate use of psychotropic medicines.
A 4 × 4 framework mapping actions as a function of the four components of access – selection, availability, affordability and appropriate use – and across four different health care levels, three of which belong to the supply side and one to the demand side, was developed. The actions are: developing a medicine selection process; promoting information and education activities for staff and end-users; developing a medicine regulation process; implementing a reliable supply system; implementing a reliable quality-control system; developing a community-based system of mental health care and promoting help-seeking behaviours; developing international agreements on medicine affordability; developing pricing policies and a sustainable financing system; developing or adopting evidence-based guidelines; monitoring the use of psychotropic medicines; promoting training initiatives for staff and end-users on critical appraisal of scientific evidence and appropriate use of psychotropic medicines.
Activating these actions offers an unique opportunity to address the broader issue of increasing access to treatments and care for mental disorders, as current lack of attention to mental disorders is a central barrier across all domains of the 4 × 4 access framework.
Mortality-associated burden of disease estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 (GBD 2010) may erroneously lead to the interpretation that premature death in people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders (MNSDs) is inconsequential when evidence shows that people with MNSDs experience a significant reduction in life expectancy. We explore differences between cause-specific and excess mortality of MNSDs estimated by GBD 2010.
GBD 2010 cause-specific death estimates were produced using the International Classification of Diseases death-coding system. Excess mortality (all-cause) was estimated using natural history models. Additional mortality attributed to MNSDs as underlying causes but not captured through GBD 2010 methodology is quantified in the comparative risk assessments.
In GBD 2010, MNSDs were estimated to be directly responsible for 840 000 deaths compared with more than 13 million excess deaths using natural history models.
Numbers of excess deaths and attributable deaths clearly demonstrate the high degree of mortality associated with these disorders. There is substantial evidence pointing to potential causal pathways for this premature mortality with evidence-based interventions available to address this mortality. The life expectancy gap between persons with MNSDs and the general population is high and should be a focus for health systems reform.