As part of the study, which was supported by Novartis, the researchers evaluated the Novartis Social Business programme, which offers a portfolio of non-communicable disease (NCD) medicines at a wholesale price of $1 per treatment per month.

Boston University School of Public Health global health lead author Peter Rockers said: “It is our hope that the evidence generated by this study will inform Novartis’ efforts to improve their programme going forward.

“The study also contributes to the public evidence base on strategies for improving access to medicines globally. Rigorous measurement and transparent reporting should be standard for all pharmaceutical industry efforts to improve access.”

The researchers evaluated the effect of the first 15 months of the Novartis Access programme in Kenya for the study.

As part of the study, the researchers compared NCD medicines access during that period in four Kenyan counties with access in four other counties with similar demographics and health variables.

They found that the programme increased the availability of the hypertension drug amlodipine and the type-2 diabetes drug metformin in health facilities.

Study co-author Veronika Wirtz said: “Access programmes operate within complex health systems and reducing the wholesale price of medicines might not always or immediately translate to improved patient access.”

Furthermore, the researchers found, while patients were usually diagnosed with an NCD in the public or faith-based mission sector, most of them obtained their medicines from the private sector.