AHC Statement on UN High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines

The Alliance for Global Health and Competitiveness (AHC) favors a transparent and fair multi-stakeholder approach to addressing global health issues, including safe, effective, and affordable access to medicines. As such, we concur with the U.S. Department of State comments calling for fundamental changes in the mission and process of the UN High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

AHC calls for the UN Secretary General to work with interested Member States and other stakeholders (including but not limited to nonprofit organizations and businesses) to renew a comprehensive, and collaborative process to address healthcare access issues.  Such an effort should be designed to produce win – win solutions that provide access to healthcare, including lifesaving medicines, to those in need. Institutions with essential expertise should play central roles, including WIPO, the WTO and WHO.

We believe that the Panel in its current form is too narrowly focused and therefore neglects true barriers to access such as lack of physical delivery systems, medical expertise, and government funding.

Capacity building for healthcare systems is crucial to any solution.  For example:

  • The problems caused by shortcomings in capacity building are manifold. Insufficient healthcare infrastructure leaves a majority of the world’s poor, primarily those in rural areas (where 70% of the global poor live), unable to access healthcare services.  This lack of healthcare to a majority of the rural poor was reinforced by a recent study by the International Labor Organization.
  • Further, the global shortage of healthcare workers – currently at 7.2 million – is likely to grow substantially in the years ahead without adequate capacity building.  The same is true for access to equipment (such as devices necessary to treat cancer) and supply chains necessary for the distribution of medicines in both rural and urban areas.

By focusing specifically on a supposed policy incoherence between the rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules, and public health, the Panel fails to acknowledge the complex nature of this issue. In doing so, it neglects key stakeholder and systemic contributions, such as the positive role of trade and intellectual property in contributing to improved public health outcomes around the world.

We particularly endorse the following passage from the US Department of State comments:

“The High-Level Panel’s mandate is too narrow to address the many and often inter-related barriers to access to safe, effective, and affordable medicines. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies four main factors contributing to access to medicines:  1) the rational selection and use of medicines,  2) affordable prices,  3) sustainable financing, and 4) reliable health and supply systems.  None of these factors are being directly studied by the Panel. With regard to affordable pricing of medicines, the WHO has identified numerous considerations, including pricing and procurement policies, taxes, markups and tariffs, and other national policies (or lack thereof) that ultimately result in higher costs for consumers and for health systems.”

The mandate, composition and process of the High-Level Panel as now constituted will not likely produce win – win outcomes, and moreover will not produce the hoped-for outcomes to benefit the world’s most underserved communities.  We urge comprehensive reform of this process now to address the flaws outlined here.

The Alliance for Global Health and Competitiveness, LLC is a multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) of the Business Council for Global Development, LLC.

© 2019 Alliance for Global Health and Competitiveness (AHC)

Tel: 202.296.8100