Research and development

The wrong prescription for vaccine access

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched in 2017 in the wake of the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. CEPI’s mandate is to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics. The initiative has raised an unprecedented US$740 million in public and philanthropic contributions to date.

As a medical humanitarian organisation and first responder in emergencies and outbreaks, MSF engaged extensively with CEPI as it developed its original Equitable Access Policy, which contained clear commitments to ensure affordable prices, transparency and pro-access management of intellectual property generated with CEPI funding – all a reflection of CEPI’s promise of public interest research and development. However, in December 2018 the CEPI Board adopted a revised policy that undermines these earlier commitments for CEPI-funded vaccines.

This policy brief examines the worrying shortcomings of CEPI’s revised access policy as reflected in subsequent documents released by CEPI. We recommend changes required to safeguard people’s access to lifesaving vaccines and ensure CEPI’s public and philanthropic funding is used responsibly.

vaccines Research and development Technical brief innovationoutbreak response
Nurse preparing the Ebola vaccine in the site of Bikoro Photograph by Louise Annaud

Affordable access to lifesaving vaccines not guaranteed as CEPI continues to avoid concrete commitments


Affordable access to lifesaving vaccines not guaranteed as CEPI continues to avoid concrete commitments


MSF statement on WHA72: Access to medicines and vaccines, Document A72/17 - agenda item 11.7

72nd WHO World Health Assembly – May 2019
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) statement on agenda item 11.7: Access to medicines and vaccines, Document A72/17

Speaker: Gaelle Krikorian

MSF welcomes the road map and the holistic approach it provides for WHO’s work on access to medicines. We are here to ask Member States to take a specific step to deliver on the road map’s potential.

Exorbitant medicine prices limit MSF’s ability to provide the best possible treatment for people in our care. The same holds true for governments represented here today. This week, Member States are negotiating an important resolution on medicines transparency – covering four areas where full transparency is urgently needed: research and development (R&D) costs, clinical trial results, medicines patents, and the real prices of medicines.

This resolution could help save lives by setting strong norms and standards to help correct the unacceptable power imbalance that exists between those who need and purchase medicines – and those who produce and sell them.

Pharmaceutical corporations do not set medicine prices with the objective of ensuring access for all people in need. They set them in order to maximise profit, which leads to rationing of medicines when patients and health systems cannot afford the prices they charge. When governments sign confidentiality agreements on prices, they give companies the upper hand in price negotiations. But countries do not have to consent to being blindfolded. There are no legal barriers that mandate this damaging secrecy.

Transparency can help level the playing field and give governments the information they need to negotiate fairly and responsibly for people and their health. We ask Member States to require transparency on the prices countries pay for medicines, the mark-ups companies charge, and companies’ production costs. And governments need to know who pays what for R&D – how much investment is really covered by companies, and how much is underwritten by taxpayers and non-profit groups.

MSF urges Member States to adopt a bold and clear resolution to set strong standards that mandate transparency on medicine prices and R&D costs.

World Health AssemblyWorld Health Organization Intellectual property and tradeResearch and development Statement
Photograph by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe Photograph by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Transparency matters

We want transparency
World Health Assembly Research and development Campaign





Why is transparency so important?

For too long, pharmaceutical corporations have been able to charge sky-high prices because they aren’t obliged to reveal their research and development costs; how much tax-payer funding they received to help develop medicines OR what prices they charge others. Governments must take responsibility for ensuring that the prices they pay for medicines and the investments they make in developing them are transparent.

We want transparency
Vivian Peng/MSF

This is a great deal for pharmaceutical corporations, who hold all the cards in medicine pricing negotiations and can set prices as high as they like. Meanwhile people who need these medicines and the healthcare systems upon which they rely too often find medicines priced out of reach.

A resolution passed at the World Health Assembly, the general assembly of the World Health Organization, could change this unfair status quo by levelling the playing field. Pharmaceutical corporations would be obliged to reveal essential information, which would help governments negotiate fairer prices for medicines.

People deserve better.

Governments must put lives over profits and support the Transparency Resolution at the World Health Assembly.

Three years ago we were using this video to protest against the lack of transparency around vaccine prices, and the absurdity of how the market for medicines works.

We went to the 72nd World Health Assembly to highlight how the same problem affects all medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.

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MSF response to World Health Assembly Medicine Price Transparency Resolution negotiations

Research and development Press release

Proposed by Italy in February 2019, the resolution is now being sponsored by ten countries: Italy, Greece, Malaysia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and Uganda. If passed, it would be a major step towards improving affordable prices for all essential medical tools worldwide. Today, a lack of transparency around what different countries pay for medicines, and the actual cost of researching, developing and manufacturing a particular medicine, allows pharmaceutical corporations to charge exorbitant and arbitrary prices.

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