Monday, July 18, 2016

‘Never again let people die because medicines are too expensive’

The organizations‚ which include South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign‚ will hand a memorandum of demands to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday morning when the conference is scheduled to get under way.

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“The 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban was a turning point in the struggle to access AIDS medicines. Since that conference‚ we have had unprecedented success in ensuring more people have access to affordable AIDS medicines.

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“However‚ 16 years after the 2000 Conference‚ many people with diseases such as cancer‚ hepatitis C‚ and drug-resistant tuberculosis cannot afford life-saving medicines thanks to the intellectual property monopolies held by multinational pharmaceutical companies‚” the organisations said in a statement on Sunday.

“Instead of learning from the struggle for AIDS medicines‚ where generic competition lowered the price of antiretrovirals by over 99%‚ we are allowing the same morally abhorrent history to be repeated‚” they added.

The group noted that people with certain forms of cancer‚ with hepatitis C‚ with drug-resistant TB‚ and their families and friends were daily facing avoidable suffering and loss because life-saving medicines were grossly overpriced.

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“This is an access to medicines crisis facing rich and poor countries alike.”

World leaders‚ the organisations said‚ had a moral and legal obligation to ensure that everyone could access the medicines they needed without incurring catastrophic out-of-pocket costs.

“World leaders also have a duty to consider alternative ways to finance R&D for the development of new medicines. Simply accepting the status quo monopoly rights of biopharmaceutical companies means denying people the right to health and in many cases the right to life.”

The organisations added that the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel (HLP) on Access to Medicines provided a unique opportunity for governments to make historic changes in healthcare.

The HLP had evidence from 181 submissions and “big” public hearings focused on “remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors‚ international human rights law‚ trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies”. Its final report was expected to be made public soon‚ the organisations said.

“The HLP will make a set of recommendations that will be tabled at the UN General Assembly in September. We expect bold recommendations from the panel on a new intellectual property regime for pharmaceutical products that is consistent with international human rights law and public health requirements‚ and simultaneously safeguards the justifiable rights of inventors. “

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