[Ip-health] Guardian: UK refuses to back 'game-changing' resolution on drug pricing

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue May 28 07:11:15 PDT 2019


Global health

UK refuses to back 'game-changing' resolution on drug pricing

Global agreement urges governments to share information on actual cost of
medicines, with aim of making them more affordable

Lucy Lamble

Tue 28 May 2019 14.01 BST

Last modified on Tue 28 May 2019 14.27 BST

The UK government has refused to sign up to a global resolution on greater
transparency for drug pricing.

The resolution urges governments and others buying health products to share
information on actual prices paid, and pushes for greater transparency on
patents, clinical trial results and other factors affecting pricing from
laboratories to patients.

The aim is to gather evidence on whether openness reduces costs and to help
countries negotiate more affordable prices.

The resolution – considered “game-changing” by campaigners for disclosure
of medicines prices – was discussed over the past week at the World Health
Assembly (WHA). Agreement was finally reached late on Monday evening and
formally passed on Tuesday morning.

While they stopped short of forcing a vote, the UK, Germany and Hungary
have disassociated themselves from the resolution, which had already been
watered down.

“WHA resolutions are normally approved by consensus,” said Elaine Ruth
Fletcher, managing editor of the Geneva-based Health Policy Watch. “It is
rare that delegates resort to disassociation.”

Affordability of medicines is an issue affecting countries worldwide. The
UK is involved in a standoff over the price of the cystic fibrosis drug
Orkambi. South Africa and Thailand have seen protests over access to cancer

The UK’s lack of support was criticised by the shadow health and social
care secretary, Jon Ashworth, in parliament last week: “We should celebrate
[pharma’s] contributions to the economy, but that does not mean we should
not hold it to account.”

Sixty-six NGOs working in sub-Saharan Africa wrote to the UK governmentlast
week calling on them to support the resolution.

Alex Norris, shadow minister for international development, said: “I am
appalled that the UK government failed to support measures that would lower
the price of medicines at this week’s World HealthAssembly. If this
government genuinely wants to ensure that everyone can access the medicines
they need, not only in the UK but right across the world, then they must
start working to improve the current distorted and secretive system of drug

“The power imbalance between the pharmaceutical industry and governments,
particularly those in the global south, must be shifted so we can ensure
people across the world can get the medicines they need at prices we can
all afford.”

Director of StopAids, Mike Podmore, said: “It is outrageous that the UK
government attempted to derail WHA negotiations on this important
transparency resolution. It is doubly shameful that they have disassociated
themselves even after they had already secured damaging amendments that
significantly weakened the resolution.

“The UK government must no longer block measures for greater transparency
of the drug industry that will help ensure lower drug prices and make sure
everyone can access the medicines they need.”

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list