[Ip-health] Health Policy Watch: Future Of Drug Pricing Resolution Hangs In Balance At World Health Assembly

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu May 23 09:30:19 PDT 2019


Future Of Drug Pricing Resolution Hangs In Balance At World Health Assembly
23/05/2019 by Catherine Saez

The fate of a potentially game-changing World Health Assembly resolution
that would support greater national and global transparency in drug pricing
remained in the balance today as the country co-sponsors tabled a
resolution riddled with comments and caveats, and a “drafting group” was
urgently formed to huddle on ways to move forward on a compromise text.

The resolution that was originally floated by Italy in February and is now
supported by 10 other high, middle and low-income countries, calls for more
data on the research costs for drug development as well as actual prices
paid for products in national and global markets, to be made available
publicly. The move is intended to create more transparent benchmarks
against which countries can negotiate drug purchase prices. Such prices now
often vary wildly among countries at the same economic level – and certain
drugs have been found to cost more in low-income countries as compared to
higher-income counterparts, advocates of the measure say.

But the latest draft of the resolution [pdf] is now pockmarked by nearly
100 proposed additions, deletions and amendments, leaving uncertainty over
whether WHA delegates could come to a consensus agreement on the resolution
in time for a plenary discussion scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).
Traditionally, WHA resolutions are only passed by consensus.

As tensions over the resolution continued to mount, Italy the main
co-sponsor of the resolution, briefly interrupted the formal WHA plenary
Thursday morning to ask interested countries to join a “drafting group”
that could jump-start negotiations on the language of the draft decision
later this afternoon.

As of early evening, the group was still meeting, with sessions likely to
drag late into Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, civil society advocates for the resolution intensified their
appeals for fast action as several politically influential countries,
including Germany and the United Kingdom, continued to request significant
revisions in the text. Other countries, including Japan and Switzerland,
were requesting amendments to specific sections, such as language around
disclosure of costs for R&D and clinical trials.

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) published a comparison of the
resolution tabled today with the earlier 20 May version [pdf] of the draft
resolution – noting the key outlying points of disagreement, section by
section. During a side-event co-organised today by KEI, Médecins Sans
Frontières, and the Cancer Alliance, speakers voiced concerns that
negotiations are pushed into the week-end, when many country experts will
have left the WHA.

The resolution asks for disclosure of the costs of research and
development, including clinical trial costs, for drugs that receive
regulatory approval, as well as other inputs that go into the final
pricing. It also mandates WHO to support countries in collating that kind
of data as well as in creation of a global clearinghouse where prices
across regions and worldwide could be tracked so as to create benchmarks
for price comparison by countries purchasing new drugs and technologies.

The first formal  draft resolution [pdf] was submitted by Italy in April.
The current version has 10 other co-sponsors including by Egypt, Greece,
Italy, Malaysia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, and
Turkey. Co-sponsorship by both European Union countries as well as
countries in Africa and Asia reflects the wide support that the initiative
has earned.

However, there have also been complaints from some countries that the draft
resolution text had been prepared too hastily, and should have first been
submitted to the WHO Executive Board in January, which would have enabled
more systematic review.  Industry has largely remained aloof from the
public fray, although critics say that transparency measures will not
overcome the many systematic barriers to medicines access, and could even
harm the position of developing countries that now enjoy preferential
pricing for certain drugs.

Civil society observers have complained that challenges come from a just a
few countries with vested industry interests. In an open letter to
delegates issued yesterday, over 40 civil society organisations called for
a strong WHO transparency resolution. If only a few countries are opposing
the resolution, WHA should abandon its usual process of decision by
consensus and resort to a vote, the letter stated.

Also today (Thursday) a group of German NGOs released a draft petition
“vehemently protesting” what they described as German government
stonewalling on the resolution and calling on their government to “urgently
revise” its negotiating position so as to ensure that “that the German
government does everything it can to ensure that vaccines and medicines are
affordable for all people worldwide.” The original statement in German was
released in English translation.

In France, a group of prominent civil society leaders, including the Nobel
prize winner Françoise Barré-Sinoussi published an op-ed in the leftist
newspaper Libération calling on the government to follow through on its
earlier statement of support and “engage France without reservations or
ambiguity in favour of this resolution.”

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

More information about the Ip-health mailing list