ISGlobal’s Department of Policy and Global Development has launched a new series of reports on pharmaceutical innovation and access to medicines. The first report in the series, “Biomedical Innovation and Access to Essential Medicines: Alternatives to a Broken Model”, analyses the existing system of research to lay the groundwork for a debate between all the stakeholders in search of a balance between pharmaceutical innovation, the public interest, and the need to ensure that all patients have access to the treatments they need.
The debate on the need to change the current model has been reopened by the Ebola epidemic, the controversy surrounding the new treatments for hepatitis C and growing concern about antibiotic resistance. This report contends that the current system of innovation and access to medicines does not always respond to the needs of public interest because it gives precedence to commercial interests above all others. One of the examples cited is the increase in the cost of full childhood vaccination, which is 70 times higher today than it was in 2001.
The high price of drugs and lack of incentives for research into neglected diseases has led to a situation in which most poor patients lack the treatments they need. The World Health Organisation estimates that one third of the world’s patients do not have access to the medicines they need to live a decent life.
Today, with millions of sick people in Europe and the United States also experiencing problems in obtaining the treatment they need, the category of patients vulnerable to a lack of access to essential medicines is no longer defined by the traditional divide between the wealthy and the developing world. Correcting this imbalance will take a concerted effort on the part of all stakeholders to find political, economic, and scientific alternatives aligned with current needs.
Gonzalo Fanjul, Policy Director of ISGlobal and co-author of the report makes the point that the current model of innovation and access to medicines is unjust and dysfunctional. “Millions of poor patients die every year while the treatments that could save their lives are kept out of reach by an abusive business model” he explains.
This report is the first public position taken by ISGlobal on this issue, and its aim is to give an account of the problem and to ask questions that will promote an informed public debate. The forthcoming reports in the series will illustrate the problems of access to medicines by examining specific examples, including the cases of hepatitis C, antibiotic resistance, and Chagas disease. The final report in the series will present conclusions and make concrete proposals for action.
The report was presented in the context of a panel discussion event “The Price of Drugs Is Not Healthy: Alternatives to a Broken R&D Model” organised by ISGlobal, Oxfam Intermón and the It’s Not Healthy Campaign.