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Press Release: Medicines should not bankrupt patients or public health systems: Access to medicines at the Global Congress

Posted by Geetha Hariharan at Dec 17, 2015 08:33 AM |
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The Global Congress on Intellectual Property and Public Interest is being held at the National Law University, Delhi, on 15-17 December 2015. The global event is jointly organized by CIS, NLU Delhi, Open A.I.R., CREATe, Columbia University and American University. Below is the Press Release from Day 1 of the Global Congress.

DECEMBER 15, 2015: DAY 1

Medicines should not bankrupt patients or public health systems: Access to medicines at the Global Congress

No wealth? No health, then!

Today, on the 2nd day of the Global Congress on Intellectual Property and Public Interest, access to medicines has been a crucial theme. All the more so, since the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines had its first meeting on December 11, 2015. At a critical crossroads for access to medicines, we are delighted to welcome Justice Michael Kirby, former justice of the High Court of Australia and a member of the High Level Panel, as a keynote speaker at the Global Congress. Justice Kirby will be speaking on 16 December 2015, the 3rd day of the Congress.

On day 1, reflecting on the critical questions in the ‘access to medicines’ movement, Matt Kavanagh of HealthGAP and University of Pennsylvania, said,
“In high-, middle- and low-income countries, people are going without access to new medicines for many disease areas including HIV, hepatitis C and cancer. This is because a year’s worth of meds can cost many times more than a year’s salary. This is driven by an IP system that is out of sync with the needs of the people. We are now seeing a global reckoning of how to reign in maximalist rights for intellectual property holders in favour of models that balance innovation, health and access.”

Dr. Germán Velásquez, Special Advisor for Health and Development at South Centre, agreed that,
“There has been a total failure in the model involving pharmaceutical patents. This is both an important problem and there is an urgent need to find alternatives to the patent system. The issue,” he said, “is the lack of an international authority. The World Health Organization no longer has teeth. What we need is a binding international treaty to tackle this crisis. Developed countries argue against this by claiming it will be financially burdensome for them, but a successful treaty on medical R&D would lead to better and more affordable medicines for everyone.”

Judit Rius of Médecins Sans Frontiéres concurred,
“There is ample evidence that the current intellectual property system has failed not only to deliver innovation, but also access. Prices of medicines are rising globally. The threats are more dire than ever with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It contains a very aggressive and dangerous IP-maximising agenda that will endanger access to medicines and increase drug prices for the whole of the ASEAN region, and potentially at the global level. Not only this, but India is under immense pressure to abandon the public health safeguards that have made it the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’. We should be looking for global solutions, and for that, India is critical and this Congress is pertinently timed.”

The TPP and its IP-maximising agenda weigh heavy on the minds of many experts. James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a human rights group that works on intellectual property rights and innovation, said,
“Trade agreements that expand and extend drug monopolies create policy-induced inequality in health. Governments need to resist measures that increase drug prices, but also fashion alternative frameworks for financing innovation, based upon the delinkage of R&D costs from drug prices."

The TPP is imposing US-centric standards on the rest of the world, said Burcu Kilic, Legal and Policy Director for Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.
“Being here and discussing 20 years’ of TRIPS, it becomes clear that the intellectual property agenda has changed a lot. Today, we discuss not only TRIPS, but also the TPP, which is a ‘made-in-America’ agreement regulating IP. It seeks to introduce what it calls “21st century high standards”, but the evidence is clear that those higher standards on IP will result in lower standards of health and reduced access to medicines.”

Dr. Susan K. Sell, intellectual property expert and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, spoke of dangerous trends in access to medicines.
“The rise of investor-state dispute mechanisms is the ‘camel’s nose inside the tent’ in access to medicine,” said Dr. Sell. “The Eli Lilly case in Canada is important to IP rights-holders. They are trying to use a non-transparent channel to get public health rules struck down.”

Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective said, “Inter-state dispute resolution systems under BITs are private, non-transparent entities which are taking decisions that impact health and welfare.” Also, “product patents lead to monopoly and exorbitant prices, and process patents lead to relative competition. This is a message that is being lost in a lot of governments, including ours.”

Dr. Amit Sengupta of the Delhi Science Forum offered his views on the impact on India. “At the moment, there are principal shifts in public policy in India, with impacts on the generic drugs industry. The ‘pharmacy of the global South’ is under threat,” said Dr. Sengupta, “and this affects not only India, but also those in need in other states as well. The Global Congress is very relevant, in that we perceive India under pressure to ensure patent protection, while other states move towards emulating India’s health safeguards.”


Please find photographs of some of the quoted speakers in this folder:

For further information, please contact:
Matthew Kavanagh: [email protected]
Burcu Kilic: [email protected]
Geetha Hariharan: [email protected]

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