[Ip-health] Activists Demand Universal Access to Medicines—#Science4All #CLParty

Lotti Rutter lotti at healthgap.org
Wed Jul 24 12:24:34 PDT 2019

*Apologies for cross posting*



Lotti Rutter (Health GAP): +27 82 065 5842 | lotti at healthgap.org

Othman Mellouk (ITPC): +212 666-452811 | omellouk at itpcglobal.org

Activists Demand Universal Access to Medicines—Science Must Benefit All!

Life without medicines is no party


Mexico City (24 July) — Today, dozens of treatment activists at the
International AIDS Society (IAS) conference took over several drug company
booths. Using balloons and streamers they called on governments across the
world to join the #Science4All “party” to make treatment available to all.
This is to ensure sustainable and affordable access to more effective
medicines to treat HIV, drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) and hepatitis C
that are currently priced out of reach for many people in need.

“It is frustrating that the progress made by scientists in developing
better and more effective treatment options, is still not reaching the
people who need them in many countries. We are not even talking about the
latest innovations, but medicines that were developed and presented at
conferences like this many years ago and have been recommended in the World
Health Organization’s (WHO) treatment guidelines,” said Othman Mellouk from
the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC).

Many medicines across the world are unavailable to people in need because
of the high price tags, a result of patent monopolies that prevent generic
competition. The patent system is being exploited by multinational
pharmaceutical companies who continually extend their 20-year patent
monopolies by making obvious, minor modifications to existing medicines, or
filing patents for combinations of old medicines. This means that people
must pay arbitrarily set prices for longer periods of time because there is
no competition from more affordable generic suppliers.

“Optimized treatments for HIV and hepatitis C are now a reality. All oral
treatment regimens for drug resistant TB are a possibility,” said Francois
Venter of the Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute (WRHI) in South
Africa. “But for scientists and researchers like me, it is disheartening to
see the fruits of our labor caught in a maze of profiteering. So many of us
partner with industry, are funded by them and are employed by them. But as
the scientific community, we must now speak up for people in need of
treatment and call on governments everywhere to make use of any and all
legal tools to ensure that we accelerate access to science, not profit.”

Activists called attention to the increasingly complicated access pathways
for critical medicines like dolutegravir
bedaquiline <https://healthgap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/BDQ-party.pdf>,
and sofosbuvir/velpatasvir
<https://healthgap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/SOF-VEL-party.pdf>, as
well as HIV prevention medicines such as tenofovir alafamide/emtricitabine
known as PrEP. Several years after the launch of these four medicines,
pharmaceutical companies Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), ViiV Healthcare and
Gilead have failed to come up with timely and realistic approaches to
pricing that could allow countries to access and scale-up access to these
medicines quicker. Their overinflated price tags instead force governments
to divert scarce health budgets to purchasing medicines at the expense of
broader health spending needs. So-called “access strategies” employed by
pharmaceutical corporations, such as tiered pricing, voluntary licences or
drug donations, are designed to maximise profits, eliminate competitors and
to give Big Pharma much-needed public relations boost to divert public
attention and scrutiny away from their real actions.

“We are inviting governments across the world to join our #Science4All
“party” and use legal but under-utilized mechanisms, such as compulsory and
government use licenses, to ensure access to medicines that are critical in
the fight against these epidemics,” said Lotti Rutter from Health GAP.
“Globally people are suffering and dying needlessly because governments are
unable to procure affordable versions of life-saving treatments. Countries
across the world, including the wealthiest, are facing unaffordable,
exorbitant medicine prices. The routine and regular use of compulsory
licenses to meet treatment needs is the need of the hour.”

The use of compulsory licenses is neither new nor radical. Compulsory
licenses are nationally and internationally recognized legal mechanisms
that allow a country to protect public health by authorizing generic
competition for a medicine even if there is a patent on that medicine.
Compulsory licenses should not be a last resort—governments may use them as
and when required, including if prices are deemed too high.

“We can look to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia who have issued
compulsory licenses for key HIV and hepatitis C medicines to support their
universal healthcare and treatment programs, now others must follow suit.
We want governments to revoke unfair secondary patents and issue compulsory
licenses to make sure we can access lower-cost generics now!” continued


*Lotti Rutter*
Associate Director
International Policy & Advocacy
Health GAP

Cell: +27 82 065 5842 (South Africa)
Phone: +1 347 263 8438 x104 (US)
Twitter: @HealthGAP @lottirutter
Skype: lotti.rutter

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