Improve access to generic drugs, UN tells governments

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The UN is advocating for ease of access to generic drugs. (Net)

For long, developing countries have relied on donations for certain drugs. However, a new report by the United Nations Secretary-General’s high-level panel on access to medicines suggests that loosening some strict regulations combined with more research funding would improve access to medication in poor populations.

According to the report, poor countries often disregard regulations on drug manufacturing and patents forcing some western countries to issue threats.

The report urges such countries that cannot afford drugs to issue licences that allow generic drugs without necessarily receiving a green light from the brand owners.

It also recommends that the international community incentivise and ensure greater access to life-saving medical innovations, especially those that are on high demand.

Speaking to The New Times in a tele-conference session of the report, Ruth Dreifuss, the co-chair of the UN panel, said some elements of the free trade agreements blocked access to development of health technologies.

“The proliferation of free trade agreements containing extensive protection in health technologies blocked access to some health technologies which was a big setback to the hopes we had 10 years ago,” she said.

In this regard, the setback to research in addressing non-communicable diseases, antimicrobial resistance and emerging tropical diseases should compel governments to adopt robust approaches to overcome incoherencies between trade agreements that undermine access to medicines.

“This pressure undermines goals of the right to health. The incoherence between the right to health with intellectual property, trade and public can only be resolved using robust accountability that holds everyone accountable,” Dreifuss added.

Such strategies that strike a balance between intellectual property rights, and the right to health in using the means that are flexible are addressed in the Doha Declaration.

Finding alternative finance innovations

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a development economist on the panel, highlighted that new technologies are essential in bringing down barriers but the current model only has certain consequences.

“While there has been enormous progress in coming up with all kinds of creative solutions, every time there is a new problem a new solution is required so that drugs can reach the people. New problems and challenges are created while accessing medicines. There has to be a more systematic approach, because of non-alignment that market incentives can create around the world,” she said.

Fukuda-Parr also called on governments to devise other means of financing instead of relying on patents, while governments should work on a treaty.

“All pharmaceuticals innovation based on incentives created by patents that aim on charging high prices cannot be the only to finance innovations. Those with medical challenges need additional supplementary model of innovation. Governments can look into arrangements of research and public funding for diseases like Ebola, antimicrobial resistance,” she added.

The UN High-level Panel on Innovation and Access to Health Technologies was announced on November 19, 2015, by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to review and assess proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies

Others on the panel include Precious Matsoso, chair at the World Health Organisation executive board, and Michael Kirby, an international jurist.

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