International Poll on Access to Medicines

Patients Across the Globe Are Concerned with Losing Access to Medications Amid Disasters According to International Poll


Poll of 13 countries shows huge portion of patients can’t go more than one week without medication before suffering consequences


WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 5, 2018 A new international survey of 13 countries, released today by Healthcare Ready, shows significant concern among patients about losing access to prescription medication during disasters. The survey also found that most respondents have confidence in their government when it comes to responding to disasters and providing access to medications. The poll was conducted by international polling firm YouGov for Healthcare Ready, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that works with the public and private sector to address healthcare resiliency before, during and after disasters.


“The key to effective risk communications is understanding various patient needs and perceptions across the globe,” said Nicolette Louissaint, PhD, executive director of Healthcare Ready. “As the Global Health Security Agenda approaches its fifth anniversary and first renewal in 2019, a distinct knowledge gap has emerged regarding patient perspectives. Particularly, this survey helped uncover patient perspectives on obtaining medication and care, preparedness, and health security, which are largely unmeasured and overlooked in country-level assessments.”


When asked how long they could go without access to medication before experiencing negative effects, the survey found many respondents would begin experiencing adverse effects within days:


  • One day or less= nearly 9 percent
  • Up to four days = 24.9 percent
  • Up to six days = 33.5 percent
  • Within a week: 42 percent
  • Up to a month: 54 percent
  • Up to a month of longer: 80.8 percent


The vast majority of people in all countries surveyed (Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Uganda, South Africa, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia), indicated they would experience significant effects after a month or more without their regular medications or medical equipment. This finding is significant as the number and frequency of natural disasters that may cause disruption in local medical systems continues to increase.


Exactly 70 percent of patients in all countries surveyed reported that they are likely to seek a flu vaccine for themselves or a loved one, and 73 percent reported that they are likely to go to a doctor if they suspect that they or a loved one have the flu. The survey also uncovered that 43 percent of respondents felt government (local and national) was most responsible for ensuring medicines are available during a personal medical emergency. This demonstrates the notion that governments have a mandate to protect patients and their ability to obtain medicines, and emphasizes its critical role in responding to disasters. These findings support the idea that governments across the world must bolster their emergency preparedness and response capabilities to ensure patients have access to medications they need in times of disaster and can recover quickly following a disruption in their care.


“As natural disasters across the world continually expose the weaknesses of governments to maintain resilient healthcare infrastructures, it is clear patients will look to the government to provide critical medication or services in the event of disasters,” said Kawaldip Sehmi, chief executive officer of International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations. “Healthcare Ready’s poll should serve as a flare to international leaders that their patients will look quickly to them for medication or health services during times of crisis.”


Understanding how soon patients will need support is critical information for emergency responders and disaster relief organizations in the case of a widespread disease outbreak or natural disaster. Such insights will enable Healthcare Ready and its partners to better prepare for and respond swiftly to the threat of an outbreak or disruptive event across various regions.


“Examining patient perspectives on health security yields critical insights that could not be obtained through other research avenues. We can now integrate these insights into existing data to provide a clearer and more granular picture of health security in countries all over the world,” noted Dr. Louissaint. “This survey uncovered that patients experience a variety of challenges when faced with a disaster, no matter where they are located in the world. It is our hope that these findings can be even more useful in the wake of the recently concluded World Health Assembly.”


This survey was conducted April 11 – 23, 2018 across 13 countries, surveying 15,201 respondents. As the convener of public and private sector healthcare and emergency management stakeholders, Healthcare Ready is equipped to provide resources and help address the gaps uncovered in this survey, especially as it relates to supporting government operations in the event of a disaster or outbreak.


A full whitepaper on the study will be published in summer 2018 with comprehensive insights on the 13 countries surveyed. For more information on the survey and to view the results released to date, please visit

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About Healthcare Ready
Healthcare Ready helps to strengthen healthcare through public private collaboration and addressing pressing issues before, during, and after disasters and disease outbreaks. As the convener of industry and government, Healthcare Ready safeguards patient health by providing solutions to critical problems and identifying best practices for healthcare preparedness and response.


Contact: Andrea Fetchko


About the YouGov survey
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 15,201 adults across 13 countries. Fieldwork was undertaken between April 11 – 23 of 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and were representative of each individual country (aged 18+). Aggregated data for all markets gave equal weight to each country.