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Tropical Doctor. 1984 Jan; 14(1):8.Enormous problems in developing countries concerning drug supply, such as inadequate control of money spent on drugs, insufficient government supervision of the importation and distribution of drugs, dumping, and so on, prompted the World Health Organization to set up an expert committee to compile a list of drugs which would provide adequate health care. This Essential Drug list is intended to extend the accessibility of the most necessary drugs to those populations whose basic health needs could not be met by the existing supply system. In cooperation with Medicus Mundi Nederland the use of this basic list is investigated in a population of medical doctors in Africa, sent out by Medicus Mundi. Investigated were: actual use of the essential drug; use of other drugs in the same pharmacotherapeutical group; priority; availability; and suppliers. In addition, insight into a number of other factors, such as the number of patients, beds, stocklists, local production, and supply of information, was obtained. The total number of patients in the combined areas was about 3,500,000. It was found that 3% of WHO's suggested drugs were not used at all, 22 essential drugs were used by only 5% of the doctors, and 41 essential drugs were used by more than 95% of the doctors. In the 1979 Revised List 25 drugs had been added and 10 deleted, compared with the 1st list, although it should be remembered that the differences were not always great. Several essential drugs mentioned for the 1st time in the Revised List are little used. Some complementary drugs scored better than the essential drugs from the same group. A number of drugs not mentioned in the List of Essential Drugs have a high priority. The results of the inquiry will be useful to evaluate the list further.