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One-third of the global population, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, lacks consistent access to essential medicines. This descriptive study assessed the level of stock-outs and whether distance to district pharmacy, supervision visits or delays in drug delivery from district pharmacy to health centers were associated with stock-outs in 15 rural health centers in northern Rwanda. We extracted data from stock cards, dispensing records and health center registers. One tracer drug, mebendazole, had no stock-outs. Quinine had the most stock-outs, an average of 10.5 months of stock-outs in 10 health centers. No association was found between drug stock-out and distance, supervision visits or delays in drug delivery. We hypothesize that observed stock-outs could be attributed to availability of other dosages of the same medicine, special orders during campaigns, staff turn-over and logistical issues beyond health centers’ capacity such as delays in importation. These should be explored more in future studies.
Key words: essential medicines, stock-outs, pharmacy supply chain management, Rwanda