[Ip-health] Health Policy Watch: WHA Resolution For Transparent Drug Pricing: Italy Speaks Out

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Mar 12 11:33:34 PDT 2019


WHA Resolution For Transparent Drug Pricing: Italy Speaks Out
12/03/2019 by Elaine Ruth Fletcher

Italy’s Minister of Health spoke out publicly today at a press conference
in Rome on the proposed  World Health Assembly resolution on drug price
transparency, while an open letter published on the Ministry’s website
called on other World Health Organization member states to support the
The resolution would help end “deplorable asymmetries of access to
information about many aspects of the innovation and supply chain for
medicines, vaccines and other health technologies,” said the letter, that
was sent last week to all 194 WHO member states and over 200 leading NGOs.

Entitled “Improving the transparency of markets for drugs, vaccines and
other health-related technologies,” the resolution, to be discussed at the
72nd session of the WHA, asks national governments to demand greater price
transparency as part of regulatory processes and also gives WHO a clear
global mandate to track and compare drug prices nationally and worldwide.

“Without transparency in the pharmaceutical market there can be no real
competition,” Minister of Health Giulia Grillo told reporters at the press
conference in the Ministry’s Rome headquarters, broadcast live on the
Ministry’s YouTube channel.

She said getting a handle on drugs costs through greater transparency is
critical to the “sustainability” of public health services such as Italy’s
National Health Service, adding “The markets must not fear change in this
direction that is increasingly necessary. Citizens ask for it, for whom
access to care remains the primary need, and is essential for the future of
our health systems.”

Grillo was flanked by Foreign Undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano and the
General Director of the Italian Drug Agency (AIFA) Luca Li Bassi, as well
as Undersecretary of Health Armando Bartolazzi – reflecting the united
Italian government front on the contentious transparency issue.

Grillo noted that there had been numerous, “fragmented” initiatives on the
issue, including a Transparency Directive issued by the European Union in
1988, “which unfortunately never achieved the transparency objectives.”
However, the issue “has never been addressed with a systematic and common
approach internationally. For these reasons I have therefore sent this
resolution proposal to the WHO, which will be discussed in Geneva during
the next World Health Assembly, from May 20 to May 28,” she said.

“The draft resolution I sent to the WHO stems from the need to tackle the
issue of lack of transparency in the pharmaceutical sector and in
particular how to arrive at price formation,” the minister continued.

In the open letter to WHO member states, the Ministry also noted that the
current lack of information “creates confusion about basic facts related to
prices, research and development costs and other aspects of the value chain
for medicines, vaccines and health technologies.”

The proposed resolution would “create a work program for the WHO and norms
for governments to cooperate in improving the transparency of various
aspects of these technologies,” said the open letter dated March 6, and
sent to over 80 NGOs as well as to 20 individuals active in research and
policy-making on the issue.

“This is a critical time for governments to consider reforms in pricing and
incentives for innovation for health technologies. The transparency
measures proposed in the resolution will ensure that consideration of such
reforms will be based upon the best possible evidence,” the letter
concluded.” We urge your government to support the resolution.”

The WHA resolution proposed by Italy would mandate WHO to:

collect and analyze data on the results of clinical trials and on the
adverse effects of drugs and other health technologies;
provide governments with a forum for sharing information on drug prices,
revenues, research and development costs, public sector investments and
research and development subsidies, marketing costs and other related
provide crucial information on patent issues.

At the press conference, Grillo said that costs of medicines and other
treatment therapies is an international as well as national issue, that is
burdening both health systems worldwide – regardless   of whether they are
predominately public or private systems.

“There is absolutely a need to intervene on this and join forces
worldwide,” she remarked.

Di Stefano, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that while drug
prices were stressing the comparatively well-funded public systems of
countries like Europe, in countries of Africa, the high costs of many
medicines left systems unable to provide treatment at all. He cited his
experiences working in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example.

“Sometimes we take it [access to medicines] for granted, because we were
born raised in a country that has a health system,” he noted. “We are
protected from my point of view.”

Di Stefano added that access to affordable medicines was central to
principles such as the “right to health” and that such rights needed to be
backed by concrete, practical actions. As a result, he said, Italy was
mustering the diplomatic initiative to “outreach” towards other countries:
“We are looking at all forums for dialogue – with the support of a
government that puts rights at the centre.”

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

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