UNITAID, which buys three fourth of its total quantity medicines from India for its global programmes, is wooing India to become a contributing member and enter its board to make a difference for the developing world.
As part of garnering support in this endeavour, UNITAID’s executive director Dr Denis Broun held discussions with the Union Ministers, senior officials from different ministries including Health, Commerce and the Chemicals, apart from meeting other stakeholders in the last couple of days.
Expressing optimism about India joining the global agency, Dr Broun said India was looking for a greater role in UN agencies and should grab this opportunity. “The response by the leadership was positive and I hope, India will be a contributing member and thus become a board member of UNITAID, thus pushing its agenda to have a more active role in the UN bodies,” he told Pharmabiz.
“We have sought around five million dollar contribution from India per year so that India can become a member in the board. Now the board is dominated by the western countries. There will be big difference if India joins the board as India is better aware of the ground situations in the developing world, unlike many other members,” he said.
UNITAID, which is facilitating the availability of life-saving drugs to patients especially in the poorer economies, bought drugs worth $600 million in the last five years from Indian companies. The agency buys medicines from about 16 Indian companies, mainly the top level players.
“India is the leading supplier, accounting for about three fourth of our medicines. This is to grow further in the coming years. We have programmes worth $50 million currently in India. More than this, we play a catalytic role as we bring down the prices of drugs, setting up a benchmark for global associations and agencies. The drug manufacturers are thus forced to supply the drugs to all major global agencies at the reduced prices that we negotiate and fix,” he said.
Dispelling the quality concerns about Indian drugs, he said the agency never came across any issues or incidents regarding quality of drugs from India. “We have a very strict quality policy, though we promote generic drugs,” he added.
During his visit to India, he also interacted with all major pharmaceutical suppliers to address their concerns like delay in payments. “There are of course concerns about the small profit margin. We have to strike a balance between profit of the company and the affordability. UNITAID was also looking towards India as an innovator and wanted to give a push to the efforts,” he added.
UNITAID was established in 2006 by the governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom as the “International Drug Purchasing Facility.” Today it is backed by an expanding “North-South” membership, including Cyprus, Korea, Luxembourg, Spain and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alongside Cameroon, Congo, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius and Niger. Civil society groups also govern UNITAID, giving a voice to non-governmental organisations and communities living with HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
UNITAID, hosted by the World Health Organisation and based in Geneva, uses innovative financing to increase funding for greater access to treatments and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in low-income countries. UNITAID is the first global health organisation to use buy-side market leverage to make life-saving health products better and more affordable for developing countries. Approximately half of UNITAID’s finances come from a levy on air tickets.