[Ip-health] UK parliamentarians call for action on access to medicines

Diarmaid McDonald Diarmaid at stopaids.org.uk
Thu Dec 4 07:36:56 PST 2014

Hi all,

A new report from the UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS on the challenges around access to medicines for HIV was been published: http://bit.ly/11P4gr8

It makes strong recommendations for changes in UK, Global Fund, WHO and WTO policy and funding to address access in MICs, ensure access for key populations groups, and secure reform of medical R&D. Our reaction is here and below: http://stopaids.org.uk/parliamentarians-sound-warning-on-future-of-aids-response/


Parliamentarians sound warning on future of AIDS response
Access Denied report calls for:

·      Review of funding decisions affecting middle income countries

·      Global Fund leadership on Hepatitis C treatment

·      Action to support use of TRIPS flexibilities to overcome high medicine prices

·      Review of patent-based R&D model

Universal access to the medicines essential to an effective AIDS response is still far from being achieved and under increasing threat in a number of critical areas, a cross-party group of MPs and Lords reported this week.
The report, Access Denied<http://bit.ly/11P4gr8>, was launched in Parliament on World AIDS Day and is the product of an almost year-long inquiry into the availability and affordability of drugs and diagnostics across the developing world. According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, despite notable success in the global AIDS response, access to medicines is threatened by withdrawal of funding in middle-income countries, the imposition of ever stricter rules on intellectual property, a failure to reach key population groups like LGBT people, sex workers and people who inject drugs, and insufficient R&D for child-friendly anti-retrovirals and treatments for HIV co-infections like TB.
STOPAIDS, which submitted evidence to the inquiry, welcomed the report findings. Director Ben Simms said,
“This report shows that the fantastic progress we’ve made in scaling up access to treatment and turning the tide in the AIDS epidemic masks some deeply worrying challenges and growing threats. We are failing to reach key population groups, witnessing a building crisis in middle income countries around pricing and resources, seeing trade deals threaten global access to medicines, and persisting with an approach to medical innovation that excludes billions of the world’s poor.
“We urge the government, the WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and other institutions named to act upon the recommendations outlined in this cross party report, or see our once in a lifetime opportunity to put the world on track to ending this epidemic slip away.”
Key recommendations were that the UK government significantly increase its funding for key population groups, commit resources and take urgent action to address the gap in funding for treatment in countries graduating from low income to middle income status, and that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria should reassess any withdrawal of funding from middle income countries unless there is clear evidence that alternative funding is in place to ensure there is no loss of services. It also recommended that the Global Fund assess the potential to show leadership in the financing of all HIV co-infections and opportunistic infections and move to intervene in the market to reduce prices, including for new hepatitis C treatment, as it has done effectively in the ARV market.
Ben Simms continued,
“Middle income countries are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, donors are scrambling to withdraw funds before national governments are willing or able to step in. This will lead to the resurgence of the epidemic there. On the other, access to affordable medicines is reduced as middle income countries are excluded from voluntary licence agreements and forced to implement ever-stricter IP laws. This is despite the fact they are home to the majority of the world’s poor, the majority of the world’s people living with HIV, and despite the concentration of epidemics there amongst LGBT communities, sex workers and people who use injecting drugs. The government has prioritised these key population groups so we hope they will welcome the chance to rethink the UK approach. The Global Fund should act on the recommendation to lead investment in treating co-infections like Hepatitis C and reassess its withdrawal from middle income countries to ensure immediate and long term loss of life is prevented.”

The report recommended the UK, WHO and WTO step up support to enable developing world countries to utilise flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property to ensure they can prioritise public health and ensure access to affordable medicines. It also called for action to prevent trade agreements weakening these pro-health flexibilities. Diarmaid McDonald, Advocacy Manager at STOPAIDS endorsed these proposals:
“The report shows that pressure continues to be placed on countries to prioritise western pharmaceutical company profits over public health. The UK must make a stand against these attacks on the right to health. We need the government to speak out in defence of governments, like South Africa, who are trying to reform their patent laws. We need active support to ensure all developing countries can utilise the legal flexibilities in international trade and IP law that allow their people to access affordable medicines. And we need the UK to firmly state what it does and doesn’t view as harmful to access to medicines in trade agreements and draw a line in the sand with the EU to ensure we block any measures in TTIP, or any other trade deal, which could undermine global health.”
McDonald also highlighted the parliamentarians’ call for a review of how effectively the current pharmaceutical R&D model is working for people across the developing world.
“It is particularly telling that the report highlights a moment of candour from Gilead’s Greg Alton when discussing the link between the sky high price of their Hep C drug sofosbuvir, and the cost of doing the R&D. For years the pharmaceutical industry have told us we must tolerate high prices as they are directly linked to the cost of developing the drugs, but Alton admitted there simply is no clear link. When the R&D system continues to fail children living with HIV, millions of TB patients, and all those who have died from Ebola, and even pharma admits one of the central defences of the current system is a falsehood; we have a responsibility to urgently explore the feasibility of alternative approaches. We call on the government to implement the recommendation to conduct a review of how the UK can work to address these failures, drawing in departments from across Whitehall.”

These recommendations echo calls from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB’s Dying for a Cure report on R&D for global public health<http://www.appg-tb.org.uk/images/reports/Dying%20for%20a%20Cure%20-%20Research%20and%20Development%20for%20Global%20Health.pdf> published earlier this year. Other recommendations made in the Access Denied report<http://bit.ly/11P4gr8> include scale up of access to viral load testing, Department for International Development funding to allow the WHO’s pre-qualification function to expand to other disease areas, renewed effort to coordinate medicine regulatory functions, relevant pharmaceutical companies to join the Medicines Patent Pool, a reversal of cuts in UK funding to AIDS vaccine research, and the creation of a global strategy on delivery of health interventions in middle-income countries.

Diarmaid McDonald
Advocacy Manager

00 44 (0) 20 7324 4785

Twitter: @STOPAIDS

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