[Ip-health] Open letter to the Co-Chairs of the UNSG's High Level Panel on Access to Medicines

Andrea Carolina Reyes Rojas subdireccion at mision-salud.org
Tue Jul 12 13:41:45 PDT 2016



Presented by the Colombian civil society organizations: CIMUN, Ifarma
Foundation, and Misión Salud
Bogotá, Colombia 30th June, 2016

Dear Co-Chairs

Ruth Dreifuss
Festus Gontebanye Mogae

We extend our best wishes to all members of the United Nations
Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Access to Medicines, and to
the international community actively engaged in the process, for the
success of the ongoing efforts aimed at finalizing the HLP report. We would
appreciate if this letter could be shared with all the High-Level Panel

We acknowledge the importance of the mandate of the HLP and hope the report
will recognize and address the well-known failures of the current
biomedical R&D model based on monopoly high prices. This current system has
failed to deliver affordable and urgently needed innovation, and has caused
incalculable harm on people's health and wellbeing around the world.

It is important for us to offer for your consideration, and for the
consideration of the UN Secretary-General and UN Member States, a brief
report on the specific situation we are currently facing in Colombia with
regard to access to affordable medicines. This situation reflects both the
urgent need for global governmental action that favors the human right to
health as well as the need for strategies to address the pressure interests
preventing governments and civil society from increasing access to
affordable medicines using well-recognized and established legal

Imatinib is a life-saving leukemia drug on the World Health Organization’s
Essential Medicines List. The drug is marketed by Novartis in Colombia,
under the name Glivec®, at a price roughly double the average citizen’s
income per year. Given the high price of the drug and the immense burdens
the price places on the health system, in November 2014 the undersigned
organizations requested that the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Colombia issue
a compulsory licence on imatinib in order to facilitate the entry of
affordable generic alternatives into the market and reduce the price of
Glivec®. After 15 months of a laborious process, the MOH acknowledged, in
Resolution 2475 of 2016, that affordable access to imatinib is a matter of
public interest in Colombia — a procedural pathway to proceed to a
compulsory license.

Nevertheless, there has been and still remains enormous pressure from
several developed countries, from multinational pharmaceutical companies
and even from Colombian trade authorities trying to block the public
interest declaration and the issuance of the compulsory license. During the
process leading to the public interest declaration, the Ministry of Health
of Colombia received communications from the State Secretariat for Economic
Affairs (SECO) of the Swiss Confederation, from officials of Colombian
embassy in United States after meetings with U.S. Senate staff and the
Unites State Trade Representative, from officials from the Colombian Patent
Office, from Novartis Colombia and from Novartis International A.G.,
attempting to both misinform and dissuade the Government of Colombia from
granting a compulsory license. The pressure included factual inaccuracies,
distortions of international trade and intellectual property rules, threats
of dispute settlement claims and even implied or perhaps explicit threats
to suspend promised United States funding for the Colombian peace process
via the “Paz Colombia” initiative if the compulsory license process were to
proceed, as was widely reported following the leak of several memos from
officials of the Colombian Embassy in the United States.

We are now waiting and hoping for Resolution 2475 to enter into force in
order to proceed with the compulsory license procedure before the Patent
Office of Colombia. Nonetheless, there are strong reasons to fear that at
the end of this long road, a compulsory license in Colombia will be
obstructed by the same type of pressure that has characterized the journey
thus far.

We are aware of efforts in various fora to formalize the primacy of health
needs over commercial interests, and of the rhetorical support to the right
to use of TRIPS flexibilities. In the footnotes below, please find links to
seven letters submitted to the MOH during this process of deliberation,
providing vital technical and political support of a decision favoring
access to affordable medicines: (1) Letter submitted by Dr. Marie-Paule
Kieny, Assistant Director-General, Health Systems and Innovation, World
Health Organization ; (2) Letter submitted by 121 global experts on public
health and intellectual property ; (3) Letter addressed to the United
States Trade Representative by 15 members of the Congress of United States
; (4) Letter from Senators Brown and Sanders to the United States Trade
Representative ; (5) Letter from 28 international NGOs addressed to the
President of United States ; (6) Open letter to the Swiss Government signed
by 17 NGOs and a past president of the Union for International Cancer
Control (UICC) ; and, (7) Response of the Swiss Government to the open
letter , which specifically states: “Switzerland fully recognises that WTO
members have all freedom to utilise the flexibilities of the WTO Agreement
on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in the
area of Public Health and of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public

Nonetheless, we feel that there is an urgent need to more effectively
support governments and civil society in their efforts to use TRIPS
flexibilities in practice. We must move from letters and statements into
political action and processes that fully protect governments and civil
society trying to increase access to affordable medicines, and that
buttress those efforts against undue pressure and influence.

We hope that sharing this information with you will encourage a favorable
outcome at the HLP for patients that need access to affordable cancer
treatments and for the sustainability of our National Health System. We
cannot afford to continue to favor trade and commercial interests over
human life and the right to health.

Please feel free to share this letter in the manner you consider


José Julián López Gutiérrez, Director, CIMUN (National University Center for
Medicines Information)
Francisco Rossi Buenaventura, Director, IFARMA FOUNDATION
Germán Holguín Zamorano, Director-General, MISIÓN SALUD.







(7) Please find in annex 3 of this link the “Unofficial copy & translation
of the original letter in French”


• Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of the Republic of Colombia
• Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, Minister of Health and Social Protection of
• María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia
• Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de Aids (ABIA - Brasil)
• Asociación civil Acción Internacional para la Salud Latinoamérica y el
Caribe (AIS LAC - based in Perú)
• Alianza LAC-Global por el Acceso a Medicamentos (regional collective of
• Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (Colombia)
• Comité de Veeduría y Cooperación en Salud - CVCS - (Colombian collective
of NGOs)
• Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia (Colombia)
• Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM - Departamento de Justicia y
Solidaridad del CELAM)
• Berne Declaration (Switzerland)
• Dejusticia (Colombia)
• Doctors Without Borders (United States)
• Farmamundi (Spain)
• Federación Médica Colombiana (Colombia)
• Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (Argentina)
• Health Action International (The Netherlands)
• International Treatment Preparedness Coalition Latin American and
Caribbean (ITPC-LATCA)
• Knowledge Ecology International (United States and Europe)
• Oxfam America (United States)
• Políticas Farmacéuticas (Chile)
• Public Citizen (United States)
• Red Peruana por una Globalización con Equidad (Perú)
• Salud y Fármacos (United States)

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