NGOs claim move to block resolution on drug price transparency at WHA

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 23 May 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Several developed countries have been accused by NGOs of trying to kill the proposed resolution on drug price transparency at the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Besides Italy and Malaysia, the draft resolution was proposed by Egypt, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain and Turkey.

International medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tweeted on Thursday (May 23) that it had sent an urgent open letter, urging the German government to stop blocking measures that can promote affordable access to medicines for people worldwide.
This follows after the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the conference paper on Transparency Resolution but NGOs claimed that Germany, the United Kingdom and other governments were trying to kill it by inflicting "a thousand cuts".

The resolution was on 11.7 of the WHA agenda item - improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health-related products and other technologies.
In an immediate response addressed to Germany Federal Health Minister Herrn Hens Spahn, MSF Access Campaign expressed shocked and extreme concern over Germany "vehemently blocking measures that can promote affordable access to medicines for people worldwide".

The letter said that the negotiating position of the German delegation to the WHA "urgently needs to be revised" and that the German government should do everything it can to ensure that vaccines and medicines are affordable for all people worldwide.

"High drug prices are no longer only in poorer countries, and this is a cause for why people do not receive urgently needed treatment.

"Even in rich European countries, healthcare systems are reaching their limits because they can no longer afford horrendous prices," said the non-profit organisation.

The letter also pointed out that drug prices were often not based on actual research costs, but were set according to how revenues can be maximised in the relevant markets.

This was recently confirmed by a WHO report on cancer drugs, it said, adding that high demand, a lack of information and suppliers without competition made this possible.

As a consequence, sometimes poorer countries even pay higher prices than rich countries, it said.

"There is urgent need to take action," it said.

The letter also said that one cannot negotiate a fair price blindly; reliable information about the actual costs of developing a drug, the amount the public sector paid for its development and knowing the prices for the same drug in other countries with similar income, is the only way to negotiate prices.

"The German Federal Government and especially your ministry have declared Global Health to be the hallmark of German International politics.

"We urgently appeal to you to uphold the principle of global solidarity," it said.
According to a source, the debate on the resolution has so far gone off line with a smaller group working out a compromise before reporting back to the assembly.

"This is according to normal UN procedures, when there are strong resistance by some countries," she said.
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