[Ip-health] NGOs denounce Pharma leader's claims on access to medicines

Dzintars Gotham d.gotham at uaem-europe.org
Sat Nov 8 09:48:34 PST 2014

Please find copied below a press release from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, issued together with the American Medical Student Association and STOPAIDS, with quotes from UAEM, STOPAIDS, and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI).


PHONE NUMBER (+1) 510-868-1159

EMAIL: Merith Basey, Executive Director, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. info at essentialmedicine.org



8th of November 2014 12:00


Incoming president denies effect of patents on the prices of medicines

For decades international NGOs, experts, and governments have linked the unaffordable prices of medicines to medical patents and data exclusivity. But on Tuesday this was publicly denied by Dr Stefan Oschmann, incoming president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), the pharmaceutical industry’s largest global trade association.

“There is zero evidence that intellectual property is a hindrance to access to medicines," said Oschmann, speaking at the launch of the ‘Healthy Means’ campaign in New York on Tuesday. This statement, quoted in a now-deleted tweet from Eli Lilly’s official Twitter account stands in stark contrast to the messages of international organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Oxfam International, and the World Health Organisation, which have for decades criticised patent monopolies for keeping prices of medicines out of reach for low- and middle-income countries. The tweet was deleted after observers began questioning Oschmann’s dismissal of abundant evidence for the effects of patents on drug prices. Neither Eli Lilly nor the IFPMA have replied to requests to confirm Oschmann’s statement, and a transcript of the speech is not currently available online.           

The prices of medicines are kept high by patent-based monopolies and data exclusivity. The barrier to access that pharmaceutical patents create was brought to the world’s attention in the HIV/AIDS crisis(1), when life-saving medicines were inaccessible to the majority of AIDS sufferers due to their price. More recently, the astronomical pricing of medicines for cancer(2,3) and hepatitis(4) have meant the exclusion of millions from treatment, both in the developing world and high-income countries. Just weeks ago, MSF released a report outlining the barrier that the pricing of tuberculosis drugs presents to scaling up treatment for the devastating epidemic(5).

Obstructing intellectual property reform remains at the top of pharmaceutical companies’ agendas, as recently revealed by a leaked email detailing two dozen companies, IPASA, and PhRMA’s $600,000 secret campaign to derail a South African proposal to improve access to medicine by employing flexibilities available under the WTO's TRIPS agreement(6).

“Tackling the current patent system is crucial to improving access to medicines worldwide. We must hold governments, pharmaceutical companies and universities accountable for placing affordability of medicines above commercial considerations: patients instead of patents,” said Merith Basey, Executive Director for Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (North America)

"Anyone who says there is zero evidence that patents hinder access to medicines is either really stupid, or acting as if everyone else is really stupid. The IFPMA member companies have been trying to price cancer drugs at more than $100 per day in India, a country with average incomes just over $4 per day.  In what Universe does this not hinder access? It is unfortunate that an important trade association like IFPMA has elected someone who has zero appreciation for the crisis in access to new medicines, and plays the clown, when we need real leadership and engagement, to reform a broken business model."  said James Love, KEI

"If Mr Oschmann wants evidence of the impact of IP on access to medicines he should meet with Phumeza, a young South Africa woman left permanently deafened by her TB treatment because in the current IP-driven system there is no money to be made in developing better TB drugs. He should meet Jay from China who had to break IP rules to get access to lifesaving HIV medicines but could now die because of the high price of the Hep C treatment he needs. He should frankly meet with any one of millions of people whose lives are at risk right now because pharmaceutical companies use intellectual property rules to keep prices high and steer R&D spend away from the diseases that affect the world's poor." said Diarmaid McDonald, Advocacy Manager, STOPAIDS

UAEM, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), and the STOPAIDS call for Dr Stefan Oshmann and IFPMA to publicly retract this misleading statement and recognise the real negative effects patent monopolies have on the ability of millions to access life-saving medicines. IFPMA should commit to zero people unable to afford medicines by abandoning inadequate pricing systems, permitting generic production in all low and middle income countries, and ending data exclusivity which restricts the use of compulsory licenses and prevents generic companies from registering new medicines.

A screenshot of the tweet by user @LillyPad - the official Twitter account of Eli Lilly - which was deleted, is available at https://uaemevidence.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/10714321_10154803518415722_3202423702787583847_o.jpg

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1 Wise, J. Access to AIDS medicines stumbles on trade rules. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2006;84(5) 337-424. Available from: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/84/5/news10506/en/ [accessed 5/11/2014].

2 Nagarajan, R. Pharma drug development only for wealthy countries? The Times Of India. Jan 27, 2014. Available from: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Pharma-drug-development-only-for-wealthy-countries/articleshow/29456711.cms [accessed 5/11/2014].

3 Experts in Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. The price of drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a reflection of the unsustainable prices of cancer drugs: from the perspective of a large group of CML experts. Blood. 2013;121(22) 4439-42. doi: 10.1182/blood-2013-03-490003. Epub 2013 Apr 25. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23620577 [accessed 5/11/2014].

4 Boseley, S. WHO calls for access to hepatitis C drugs. The Guardian. April 9, 2014. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/society/sarah-boseley-global-health/2014/apr/09/hepatitis-c-pharmaceuticals-industry [accessed 5/11/2014].
5 MSF. Out of Step: Deadly implementation gaps in the TB response. October 2014. Available from: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/sites/usa/files/attachments/msf_out-of-step_final_for_printoct17_0.pdf [accessed 5/11/2014].
6 KEI. New leaked Merck missive reveals deep drug, medical device company opposition to South African patent reforms. 2014 Jan 14. Available from: http://keionline.org/node/1908 
Background of organisations:

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is an international, student-run non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to medicines worldwide through a combination of university licensing practices, revolutionary research and development practices, and empowering the voices of a new generation of health and science professionals.


Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) is a not for profit non governmental organization that searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources. KEI is focused on social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.


StopAIDS is the network of UK agencies working since 1986 to secure an effective global response to HIV and AIDS.



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