UNDP; December 11, 2015. New York – The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines held its first meeting today. The panel committed itself to finding solutions that will increase access to medicines, while continuing to promote investment in new treatments to save the lives of millions.
“It is a basic fundamental right that everyone should be able to access medicines, vaccines and diagnostics they need in order to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of people of all ages, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 3,” said President Mogae, co-chair of the High Level Panel.
Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland are co-chairing the panel. The work of the High-Level and its Expert Advisory Group is being supported by a Secretariat at UNDP in collaboration with UNAIDS. The panel was established by the Secretary-General to find solutions to increase access to medicines, while continuing to promote investment in developing new medicines.
Panelists noted that despite progress made in many areas, millions of people are still left behind. Many are dying because they cannot access life-saving medicines. This includes:
• 1.2 million people died from AIDS in 2014.
• 9.6 million people infected with TB and 1.5 people died because of TB.
• Over 400 million people have hepatitis B and C and 1.4 million people have died from Hepatitis B and C.
• 38 million people have died from non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (17.5 million deaths), diabetes (1.5 million deaths), cancer (8.2 million deaths) and respiratory diseases (4 million deaths).
Michael Kirby, Member of the High-Level Panel and Chair of the Expert Advisory Group remarked on the global HIV response.
“Millions more would have died if we had left it to the market to provide life-saving medicines. Let us keep the faces of those who died and those who are living with HIV, who are still alive because of treatment, at the forefront of our work. We need to find solutions so that those suffering from cancer, hepatitis C and other diseases can access the treatments they need.”
The work of the High-Level Panel is not only focused on diseases that affect poor or low-income countries. Its mandate, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, is global, recognizing that even wealthy countries struggle to provide access to affordable and effective medicines.
Sofosbuvir, for example, which is largely successful in curing hepatitis C, costs US$84,000 per patient in the United States. Treatments for cancer in the United States and other high-income countries are similarly stretching the budgets of governments, families, and health insurance companies. In the United States, 11 of the 12 drugs approved for cancer in 2012, cost at least US$100,000 a year. Treatment for rare diseases such as Pompe, Hunter Syndrome and nocturnal hemoglobinuria cost anything between US$300,000 to US$440,000 per patient.
“Even in middle and high-income countries, the cost of lifesaving treatments for hepatitis C and cancer are increasingly out of reach of those who need them,” said Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and co-chair of the High-Level Panel.
“People are enduring unnecessary pain and suffering because they and the health care system simply cannot afford to pay the prices for the medicines they need in time. But at the same time we have to balance the need to promote research and development of new medicines to improve the health and wellbeing for all.”
Following the meeting, the High-Level Panel will issue a call for proposals from experts, individuals and organizations to recommend solutions that promote the rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules, and public health in the context of health technologies. Proposals submitted will be reviewed, shortlisted and invited to present at public hearings where stakeholders from governments, the industry, patient groups and others will be able to provide their thoughts and views on the proposals. The High-Level Panel’s findings and recommendations will be compiled in a report, which will be presented to the Secretary-General in June 2016.
Note to the Editor:
The Secretary-Generals High Level Panel on Access to Medicines comprises of 16 eminent, well-respected individuals with a deep knowledge and understanding of the broad range of legal, trade, public health and human rights issues associated with access to medicines and health technologies.
Biographies and additional information on the High-Level Panel can be accessed fromwww.UNSGaccessmeds.org
John Butler, Global Health Strategies, +1 917 573 1339+1 917 573 1339
Asmaa Rimawi, Global Health Strategies, +1 718 501 0929+1 718 501 0929