134th WHO Executive Board meeting – Agenda item 9.7: Access to essential medicines
Médecins Sans Frontières welcomes calls for Member States and WHO to strengthen essential medicines mechanisms. However, MSF is concerned by the lack of attention in the Secretariat’s report on the impact intellectual property has on the affordability and accessibility of medicines, and how this affects the inclusion of new treatments in essential medicines lists.
The intersection between intellectual property, innovation and public health is recognized in a number of WHO resolutions and in the TRIPS Agreement. Yet it remains a challenge for WHO member states, especially developing countries, to use these flexibilities when drafting intellectual property policies that aim to promote access to affordable essential medicines.
Events in South Africa last week illustrate that multinational pharmaceutical companies will go to great lengths to protect profit margins, even when it comes at the expense of people’s lives, and involves the covert derailing of government policies aiming to balance intellectual property, public health and access to medicines. Such attacks on urgently needed reform are unacceptable in a country facing one of the world’s most acute HIV and TB epidemics, with medicine prices up to 35 times higher than countries with more robust generic competition.
Also of grave concern are intellectual property clauses included in trade negotiations initiated by the United States and the European Union. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is especially worrying, and TRIPS-plus provisions, if accepted, would have a severe adverse impact on public health in developing countries.
The draft resolution on access to essential medicines is a timely and invaluable opportunity for Member States and the Secretariat to reaffirm the political commitment of promoting access to essential medicines through the use of TRIPS flexibilities. MSF urges WHO to play a greater role in the developing world to counter industry’s influence, and ensure countries preserve their ability to enact TRIPS flexibilities and access more affordable medicines.