[Ip-health] Opening speech by MEP Eva Joly at Med Innovation conference 18-11 "Health is a basic right"

david at davidhammerstein.org david at davidhammerstein.org
Mon Nov 22 10:34:21 PST 2010

Can we afford the Current Model of Medical Innovation?
Towards New Models of Innovation
Speech Eva Joly

I am very pleased to be here this morning to address such an important  
issue: global access to essential medicines. I am also very pleased to  
see that such an important topic attracts so many people!

On the eight Millennium Development Goals set out in 2000, three are  
directly linked to improvements in the health sector. After more than  
10 years and after the high level conference this fall, the health  
situation of millions of people is still alarming, although some small  
improvements have been made. The economic and financial crisis has hit  
the poorest the hardest, making us fear for the worst. The crisis  
might undermine the modest progress made in the past years.

The economic crisis in developing countries comes in addition to the  
crisis related to medicines that they have been facing for years: one  
related to access to medicines, the other related to innovation.

On one hand, treatments are often too expensive for the poor. In 2010  
we should expect that everyone with HIV/AIDS receives the medicines  
they need. Unfortunately this is not true. Despite a tenfold increase  
in the anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS in the last 5 years,  
less than 10% of people living with HIV/AIDS are access to anti- 
retroviral treatment. (oxfam)

On the other hand, endemic pathologies in poor countries are neglected  
by the pharmaceutical industry having no financial interest in it.  
This is a vicious circle: Markets in developing countries are not  
solvent; pharmaceutical companies cannot expect any profit there, no  
research is made and thus no new innovation on diseases hitting  
millions of people. As a consequence, Malaria still kills one child in  
the world every 30 seconds.

The problem with access to medicines in developing countries is far  
from being new. What's new is that today, the extremely high costs of  
medicines has not only a dramatic impact on the people of developing  
countries. It also affects the economic viability of public health  
systems in the developed countries.

The financial and economic crisis has amplified inequalities and has  
turned - a basic right – health - into a luxury item - even in  
developed countries.

Several European countries have already been constrained to reducing  
public health system expenditures. Among measures aiming at cutting  
its debt, Greece recently cut the price of medicines by 21,5%. Spain  
decided last May to decrease the prices of patented prescription drugs  
by 23%. (The Spanish government expects to save roughly 1.3 billion  
euros. In a country with a pharmaceutical bill of 15 billion euros per  
year, this measure aims at strengthening the sustainability and  
balance of the Spanish national health system).

German parliament is also currently considering passing a law with the  
same objective.

The financial and economic crisis - although it has dramatic  
consequences - should be a starting point for the re-thinking of  
entirely new models of medical innovation.

This report is clear: our current model of medical innovation does not  
work. It not only failed to promote innovation but it also has become  
far too expensive for both developing and developed countries. The  
patent monopolies model which was supposed to be an incentive model  
generating innovation turned in to an obstacle. What was supposed to  
be its main advantage appeared to be its worst fault.

We need new models. And I have good news for you: the experts present  
here today have ideas and proposals on how to achieve it! This change  
of paradigm has already been quoted by the Council in its conclusions  
on the EUs role in Global Health in May 2010, as one of the solutions  
for the EU and the Member States to ensure that health innovation and  
intervention produces products and services that are accessible and  
affordable: it is exploring models that dissociate the cost of  
research and Development and the prices of medicines. In other words:  

The solution is to break the bond between research financing and  
prices of medicines. To have two prices, one for Research &  
Development, another for the resulting medicines.

This system will allow undeveloped countries to achieve and go beyond  
the Millennium Development Goals 6 and developed countries to save  
their precious health systems.

Health is not a luxury, it's a basic right.

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