67th WHO World Health Assembly – Agenda item 15.4
Access to Essential Medicines, Resolution EB 134.R16
Speaker: Helle Aagaard, EU Policy and Advocacy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign
MSF programmes stand witness to the fact that medicines affordability is still a critical problem. For many new medicines addressing public health challenges, from communicable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and HCV, to NCDs like cancer, high prices keep medical tools out of the reach of MSF, patients and governments.
The problem is particularly acute for people living in so-called “middle-income” countries - where MSF is increasingly delivering medical care. Home to three-quarters of the world’s poor, MICs will need to implement measures to encourage affordability, particularly through reform of patent laws and robust use of TRIPS flexibilities and other measures to foster generic competition. WHO will need to support these endeavours.
MSF welcomes the resolution on access to medicines, but believes it could go further in three ways:
- The resolution should call for WHO Prequalification programme scope to be expanded, beyond HIV, TB and malaria. If not done, WHO will be unable to adequately respond to emerging health challenges in developing countries, including viral hepatitis and non-communicable diseases.
- Building upon the work of the 2008 Global Strategy and Plan of Action, the resolution should strengthen the WHO mandate to promote a reform of the current R&D system, in order to ensure both medical innovation and access. Today’s model is overly reliant on patents and IP to stimulate and finance medical innovation. It thereby fails to address key research needs, for example for antibiotics, as well as creating barriers to affordability and access.
Above all, we expect WHO to remain focused on the interventions best-suited to achieve sustainable and Member State-driven strategies to ensure affordable access. WHO should not passively endorse new initiatives that amount to the development of new global norms, around non-solutions – such as tiered pricing and market segmentation – which leave millions of patients behind.