KUALA LUMPUR: The World Health Assembly's adoption of a resolution for greater public disclosure of drug prices is a good start but more measures are needed, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The 72nd World Health Assembly resolution on improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health-related products and other technologies was adopted on Tuesday (May 28) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry welcomed the resolution.
"This landmark agreement is a first step towards a more open dialogue about price transparency to improve access to medicines," he said in a statement Wednesday (May 29).
"Greater price transparency will add as another tool that will change the way drug prices are negotiated by governments and national health systems to fight against the rising cost of healthcare.
"This move will help strengthen our government's negotiating position and enhance our ability to obtain more affordable drugs for our people.
"The Ministry believes that a sustainable fairer pricing system is needed for both health systems and pharmaceutical industries," he said.
He said the ministry will continue its efforts to improve universal access to medicines and affordable medicines as one of the components in the National Medicines Policy, in line with its commitment to universal health coverage (UHC) that ensures universal access of medicine to the people.
However, one of the initial proponents of the resolution on requiring transparency in R&D costs was not achieved.
Third World Network legal adviser Sangeeta Shasikant said that it did not address the secrecy issues but it was a step forward towards price transparency and the WHO has a firm mandate to support member states to achieve this.
"An urgent next step is full transparency in R&D costs," she said.
Another part that was watered down, is for member states to take measures to share net prices of health products from manufacturers when the initial proposal was for prices to be shared across the supply chain.
The resolution was adopted after intense negotiations with member states to agree with the draft resolution proposed by Italy.
Malaysia is one of the initial six co-sponsoring nations, along with Greece, Serbia, Spain and Uganda.
The resolution gradually gained support from a total of 19 countries.
It urged member states to undertake measures to publicly share information on prices and reimbursement cost of medicines and improve the public reporting of the patent status information and marketing approval status, among others.
Among the countries that have disassociated themselves from the adoption of the resolution were Germany, the United Kingdom and Hungary.
The United States, surprisingly, being a home to several large pharmaceutical companies, approved the resolution.