A month after the 140th World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Executive Board meeting, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response has revealed that the United States government had opposed including agenda items proposed by India, which aimed at reforming medical innovation that currently pump up drug prices to unaffordable levels.
What’s the issue?
The Indian government — along with 11 South East Asian countries — had proposed a discussion on an ‘Access to Medicines’ report by the United Nations High Level Panel that had recommended reforms in the funding of biomedical research and development.
However, the set of documents released by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a not for profit organisation that gives technical advice to governments, reveals that both the United States and the WHO opposed including the proposal by India. They observed that they were mainly concerned about the narrow mandate of the recommendations.
The U.N. Access to Medicines report had recommended solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between justifiable rights of inventors, trade rules and global public health targets. The report recommended that “governments and the private sector must refrain from explicit or implicit threats, tactics or strategies that undermine the right of WTO Members to use TRIPS flexibilities.”
- The U.N. report says there is a need for an RD treaty and it recommended reforms in the area of biomedical R&D.
- The 11 member-states — Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste — as well as Brazil, Iran, and South Africa supported the inclusion of the agenda item.
- The delays by WHO to place the UN HLP recommendations on the agenda of the WHO’s EB and subsequently at the World Health Assembly have drawn widespread criticism from Asian civil society organisations.