Policy & Global Development

The Cycle “Spain and the Health SDGs: Practical Implications of an Equity and Sustainability Agenda” Comes to an End

The third and last seminar closed with a conference on poverty-related diseases


What would happen if the medicines we need cost as much as one year of our salary? This is the question with which Laurence Flevaud, diagnostic advisor at MSF Spain, started her talk “Poverty-related diseases and the SDGs: tools to leave no one behind” that took place on May 8 at the Palau Macaya in Barcelona. The talk closed the third and last session of a cycle of seminars on “Spain and the Health SDGs: Practical Implications of an Equity and Sustainability Agenda” organized by “la Caixa” Foundation in collaboration with ISGlobal.   

In her talk, Flevaud noted that the diagnosis and treatment tools for tropical diseases are often unavailable, unaffordable or inadequate. She gave as example the pneumonia vaccine that has not been introduced in one third of the countries partly due to its high price (as a result, 1 million children still die from pneumonia every year). While in 2008 the package of vaccines recommended by the WHO cost 1.5 $USD, in 2018 it costs 40 $USD and not only because there are more vaccines but because the new vaccines are more expensive.  Regarding diagnosis tools, they are often inadequate for many neglected diseases, since they require high technology, cold chain and are costly. In some cases, diagnosis tools have not even been developed. Sleeping sickness, the “most neglected of neglected diseases” is still diagnosed in the field as in 1930 (by microscopy).  

She gave some successful examples of efforts to reduce drug prices, a problem that also affects ‘rich’ countries. For example, drugs for viral hepatitis C: in 2013, the 12-week treatment cost 147,000 $USD, in 2015 it decreased to 1,400 $USD thanks to negotiations with the manufacturer and in 2017 it costs 120 $USD thanks to the first generics. She concluded listing a series of solutions to change the current innovation model towards needs-driven model, and underlined the key role of governments and civil society in supporting multilateral platforms such as UN, WHO, Gavi, and G20.

The conference closed a working session day where 40 experts debated on the meaning of “leaving no one behind”, the most famous pledge of the 2030 Agenda, in the context of poverty-related diseases and universal health coverage.