[Ip-health] The Lancet (Editorial): Access to medicines—the status quo is no longer an option

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Sep 23 07:52:37 PDT 2016



Access to medicines—the status quo is no longer an option

The Lancet
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31706-8

Last week, the much anticipated report of the UN Secretary-General's
High-Level Panel on Access To Medicines, Promoting innovation & access to
health technologies, was published. The independent panel sought
recommendations to solve the disjunction between trade and the patent
system with fulfilment of the right to health. This misalignment continues
to be a barrier to affordable access to essential medicines.

The report's strong focus on the use of human rights as the basis of
policies and on access to medicines in all countries is to be commended; as
is the open documentation of statements of disagreement among the panel, or
that some recommendations were not bold enough. Important were the renewed
calls for an international R&D convention and more public financing for
R&D. Concrete approaches to improve transparency, good governance, and
accountability were all emphasised, including punitive action against
parties that pressure countries that use TRIPS flexibilities.

The report was opposed by the US Government and the pharmaceutical industry
whose attempts to dilute the report's recommendations and block its release
have been widely reported. These tensions are not new. The existing
intellectual property (IP) system serves these parties well where public
health and human rights considerations are often omitted in pricing
decisions and access to medical products and technologies. It is a pity no
consensus was reached among panellists on renegotiating TRIPS and a new IP

Nevertheless, the panel's recommendations are an important first step and
it will be imperative for Ban Ki-moon to endorse them quickly, especially
as momentum to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which also has
negative implications for access to medicines, is gathering in the USA. The
Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines, to be published on Nov 8, 2016,
will provide a timely platform to look at health innovation and access in
the much wider context of comprehensive medicine policies. It will provide
actionable recommendations that will complement and possibly leverage those
of the panel's and reaffirm essential medicines as a keystone of the global
health and development agenda.

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