September 20, 68th WHO Regional Committee for Europe
Delivered by Sara Amini, Senior Manager, Social and Economic Policy, IFPMA
IFPMA represents R&D-based biopharmaceutical industry worldwide and will provide the position and perspective of the global biopharmaceutical industry. IFPMA welcomes the WHO’s ambitious 13th General Programme of Work (GPW), particularly around delivery of UHC. A broad range of policies are required to holistically address real barriers to access to medicines, particularly “domestic investment in coverage schemes that reduces out-of-pocket payments”, while simultaneously ensuring sustainability of future medical innovation.
A WHO Roadmap on access to medicines and vaccines can be useful if it facilitates a collective understanding of the key issues and catalyses actions that result in tangible benefit to patients worldwide. Creating this understanding of the wider context and key enablers for access – such as, effective health systems, sufficient and sustainable treatment financing, supply chain efficiencies, investment in the health workforce, suitable regulatory systems – is fundamental to achieving innovation and access to safe and effective diagnosis and treatment.
The Zero Draft identifies these issues but there needs to be a clear and coherent plan on how these objectives should be prioritized and delivered – with meaningful timelines and outcomes assessment. It must also be based on the guiding principle in the GPW and WHA document A71/12 “…though many activities contribute to improving access to medicines and vaccines, there is a need to prioritize and invest in those where WHO has an advantage compared with other organizations and that provide value for money, are fit for purpose, and lead to achievable and sustainable improvements”. Once such an ‘impact framework’ is defined there can be a sound basis for further substantive discussion.
IFPMA continues to underscore the value of partnership – a vision strongly shared by Dr. Tedros as evidenced in his speech in the 2018 WHA: “By leveraging the experience, the skills, resources and networks of our partners, our impact can be exponentially larger than if we were acting alone…To truly fulfil our mandate, we must make our partnerships even deeper and stronger”. Partnerships are a fundamental component for access to medicines and vaccines, but unfortunately, an integrated vision of collaboration is largely absent from the Roadmap.
In line with this, engagement with the private sector is also largely missing from the current version of the Roadmap, despite the GWP specifically detailing the critical role and importance of the private sector in achieving UHC including through innovation and investment. IFPMA and its members remain fully committed to achieve the goals as defined in the GWP, which draw upon and pursue health-related SGDs and we look forward playing an active role with WHO and other stakeholders, both in terms and innovation and access. IFPMA members are currently engaged in over 900 health partnerships, many of which focus on health system strengthening.
The Roadmap needs to acknowledge that sustainable and forward-looking solutions to health system access challenges can only be achieved through continued medical innovation – which relies upon the provision of effective incentives, particularly strong and predictable IP protection – together with health system strengthening, supply chain management, regulatory convergence and capacity building, comprehensive prevention, timely diagnosis and effective primary healthcare. There is much that needs to be done and hence focusing on areas like pricing and IP in isolation will not achieve long-term successful health outcomes and therefore this must be linked to the core issues. For example, pricing transparency undermines efforts to tailor the price for resource limited settings.
IFPMA looks forward to constructive and evidence-based discussions on the Access to Medicines Roadmap, which will add value by creating greater clarity and focus by the WHO in its important effort to increase access to medicines and vaccines over the next 5 years for the benefit of patients worldwide.