Statement |

144th WHO EB: Medicines, vaccines and health products: Cancer medicines

Gaëlle Krikorian
Head of Policy
MSF Access Campaign

WHO Executive Board, 144th Session, January 2019
MSF Intervention: Agenda item 5.7.2 (EB144/18) – Medicines, vaccines and health products: Cancer medicines

WHO Executive Board's Special Session on Ebola UN Photo/Christopher Black

Speaker: Gaëlle Krikorian

The Director-General’s report on Pricing of cancer medicines and its impacts is very alarming. It shows that cancer medicines are priced out of reach of the majority of patients globally. It also reveals why this is so. The prices companies charge have nothing to do with their investments in R&D and everything to do with extracting as much profit as possible from public health systems and patients.

While the report focuses on cancer, its findings illustrate fundamental, widespread failings in the economic and scientific ecosystem we rely on to generate most medicines today:

  • Companies price drugs based on their ability to charge the maximum amount that buyers are willing to pay. Prices are excessive, unjustified and rising continuously with no correlation to R&D investments or the purchasing power of countries or patients.
  • Pricing practices do not reflect substantial public sector contributions and incentives for R&D provided through many different channels.
  • The ability to charge high prices distorts R&D priorities towards seeking maximum profits and leaves the greatest health needs unmet while companies pursue marginal health gains.
  • A systematic lack of transparency on R&D and manufacturing costs and prices underpins and enables these practices.

MSF continues to witness first-hand how biomedical innovation fails to meet the needs of the people we care for. Excessive medicine prices threaten the very survival of millions of people around the globe today.

Reforming this broken model requires the promotion of full transparency on R&D and manufacturing costs and prices, and the implementation of alternative innovation initiatives that focus on people’s needs – not solely on the maximisation of profit. We call on Member States and WHO to prioritise this work and to come to the Assembly in May prepared to pass a decision point to address these key roadblocks with concrete actions.