How the MDGs gave up on measuring access to medicines

Authors: Dzintars Gotham, Kristine H Onarheim, Melissa J Barber

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set in 2000 and ran until the year 2015. They are succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals .

MDG 8E was the target concerning access to medicines. The target was left out in the last 6 MDG progress reports without an explanation only to reappear as a sentence stating the paucity of data available. The decision to drop the target is shrouded in mystery and had apparently been made, without consultation of stakeholders.

Dropping goals due to the paucity of data without making serious attempts to measure them contradicts the purpose of having goals in the first place.

Global goals matter and influence the prioritisation of governments. SDG targets concerning access to medicines must be robust and require investment into data collection systems.


“After we began making inquiries into 8E’s absence, it resurfaced after 6 years of absence in the 2015 MDG report, as a single paragraph acknowledging the paucity of data”

“A substantial part of the value of setting goals, targets, and indicators lies in the imperative to collect information for measurement and accountability —“what gets measured gets done”.10 The decision to exclude an indicator because it is less established is diametrically opposed to the potential gains of establishing new data collection systems. “

“To be taken seriously, the SDG targets and indicators on access to affordable medicines, vaccines, and medical technologies demand sufficient political will and investment for robust measurement.”

Source: How the MDGs gave up on measuring access to medicines, Gotham, Dzintars et al., The Lancet Global Health , Volume 4 , Issue 5 , e296 – e297

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