A tiny investment of only $1-2 (0.90-1.80 Euros) per person per month could give all people in low- and middle-income countries access to a basket of 201 essential medicines, researchers said on Monday, news agency AFP reported.
But one in five countries spend even less than that.
"Recent estimates suggest that the average total spend on medicines in low-income countries is $8.6 per person per year," said a statement by The Lancet, where the study was published.
The study was compiled by 21 international experts and made recommendations to governments, NGOs, health institutions, medicines regulatory agencies and the pharmaceutical industry.
A basket of essential medicines includes painkillers, HIV, cancer, and tuberculosis drugs, and vaccines and contraceptives.
Poorer households in low- and middle-income countries spend as much as 9.5 per cent of their income on medicines, compared to 3.5 per cent in poorer households in rich countries, the Lancet study added.
The study talked about the necessity of affordable medicines, and how countries might work towards them.
"Every available regulatory and management intervention that could improve the affordability of medicines must be considered," said AFP, quoting a line from the study.
"For example, removing taxes and tariffs is well within the power of governments, even if it might be unpopular with certain stakeholders."