[Ip-health] Stat+: Italy is urged not to replace a public health official who pushed for drug pricing transparency

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Nov 11 21:54:10 PST 2019


Italy is urged not to replace a public health official who pushed for drug
pricing transparency
NOVEMBER 7, 2019

Nearly two dozen health and consumer advocacy groups are urging the Italian
health minister not to replace the head of the Italian medicines agency,
who was widely credited with getting the World Health Assembly last May to
adopt a resolution for seeking transparency in drug pricing.

In a letter, the groups argued that Dr. Luca Li Bassi, who for the past
year has been director general of Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco, or AIFA, is
a skilled policy maker who has successfully pursued public health goals,
such as championing strategies to make new medical inventions more
affordable, and should be allowed to remain in his job.

“Dr. Li Bassi is held in very high regard throughout the global community
and within the European Union provides Italy with an important opportunity
to advance the most transformative changes to make medical technologies
more affordable and more universally available to people who need them,”
the groups wrote. “He is a key asset for public health in Italy and for the
entire global community.”

The health minister, Roberto Speranza, could not be reached for comment.

The letter was sent amid political upheaval in Italy that caused a recent
shuffle among government officials. The former health minister, Giulia
Grillo, who hired Li Bassi in October 2018, was replaced two months ago.
Earlier this year, Grillo made a show of introducing the WHA resolution and
only last August, wrote an editorial criticizing the editor of The Lancet
for accusing the Italian government of taking “anti-scientific” positions
toward public health.

Among the groups signing the letter — which was first reported by Health
Policy Watch — were Health Action International, Union for Affordable
Cancer Treatment, Mision Salud, Knowledge Ecology International Europe, and
STOPAIDS. More than two dozen individual health policy activists and
professors also signed the missive.

In particular, they cited his ability to convince the WHA to pass the
transparency resolution, which was introduced last February by Italy and
seen as a vehicle by cash-strapped governments to control their drug
spending, an issue that has reverberated around the world and increasingly
engulfed wealthy nations, as well.

During the run-up to the WHA meeting, several countries in which the
pharmaceutical industry has a large presence — among them, the U.S., the
U.K., and Germany — began pushing back and sought to water down or simply
remove key passages. Ultimately, the resolution received mixed reviews over
language that bolstered transparency into drug pricing, but maintained a
curtain around key R&D costs.

“It is difficult to convey how great a challenge it was to get the WHA to
consider, let alone approve a resolution dealing with transparency, given
the longstanding drift towards greater secrecy and less transparency in
every aspect of the development and pricing of medicines,” the letter

“It is very rare to see a senior government official do so much in such a
short time to raise awareness across the global community of the need to
change course on issues fundamental to — and perceived as contrary to — the
interests of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.”

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

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