Access to Medicines: Drug Pricing and Patents
Press Release on Access to Medicines: Drug Pricing and Patents -------------------------------------------------------------- Health Action International Asia Pacific Colombo 4, Sri Lanka Email: WHO estimates that currently one third of the world's population lacks access to essential drugs. Over fifty percent of people in the developing world especially in Africa and Asia do not have access to even the most basic essential drugs. This is one of the pressing issues in the world that requires urgent attention at present. Access to medicines depends on four critical elements: Afford- able prices, rational selection and use, sustainable financing and reliable supply systems. Due to limited financial resources in the developing world drug pricing has become the most impor- tant factor that restricts access to medicines. There are many factors, which influence and maintain the higher & unaffordable prices of drugs, however, lack of price control measures and the pricing policies of multinational pharmaceutical companies are considered the most important contributing factors. The paper presents an overview on Globalization, Intellectual property Rights (IPRs) and Patents, which have taken a new turn with the introduction of the Agreement on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs Agreement). WTO/TRIPs Agreement will make the current health crisis a disaster in the near future. WTO multi lateral agreements play a crucial role in legitimizing globalization, which results in increased poverty, the reason that cuts off one third of the world's population from access to basic essential drugs and if implemented, the multinational way, will lead to a situation where over 50 per cent of the world population will have no access to essential drugs. Focusing on the DOHA declaration and the TRIPs Agreement, the paper outlines Parallel Importing and Compulsory Licensing pro- visions that can be used to limit patents and monopolies in the TRIPS Agreement and highlighted at the 4^th Ministerial Confer- ence in DOHA. These measures are stated as crucial in enabling access to affordable medicines. The paper deals with many other important issues of access to medicines including; patents and research development, local production and technology transfer, drug donations, differential/preferential pricing or tiered- pricing system and public private initiatives. In conclusion the position paper recommends several steps that could be implemented at national, regional and international level to bring about change. Some important recommendations are: * Adopt and implement National Drug Policies (NDP) based on the concept of essential drugs that are formulated with substantive involvement of citizens and NGOs. * Produce National Drug Formulary and Therapeutic Guidelines based on the essential drugs concept and containing drug-pricing information. * Promote and encourage generic competition * Eliminate barriers to access to medicines and raw materials, including overly rigid and / or expensive regulatory require- ments, unnecessary margins on prices. * Develop systematic and transparent solutions to ensure equity pricing and cautious about accepting deals with unreasonable conditions. - Countries should be able to exercise their rights in determin- ing their public health priorities and be allowed to take neces- sary measures independently. - Bilateral pressure from multi-national drug exporting coun- tries placed on developing countries must be stopped. - Countries that do not have local manufacturing capacities in producing medicines should have measures to issue compulsory li- censes to firms in countries that can meet their production needs and have the production shipped to them. - Educate health activists and key policy makers of developing countries on the safeguards provided by the Doha Declaration on TRIPs that will enable the developing countries to manufacture or import cheaper drugs. - Developing countries should develop a comprehensive interna- tional legal framework to ensure the optimal utilization of the Doha declaration safeguards and priority to public health inter- ests. For further information contact: Information & Communications Officer, Health Action Interna- tional Asia Pacific