Yesterday member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a resolution that urges governments to publicly share information about the price of medicines and other health products, but allows companies to voluntarily withhold information about their true out-of-pocket research, development and manufacturing costs.
Earlier versions of the resolution included crucial provisions that would help lift the veil that shrouds the research and production costs pharmaceutical companies pay in bringing a drug to market, taking into account direct federal and charitable funding and tax deductions and credits. The United States delegation fought hard against those provisions, and successfully weakened the resolution, working with the Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and others.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar, with the agreement of President Trump, stood in the way of affordable treatment for patients in the US and around the world,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. “As a former pharmaceutical company executive, Secretary Azar showed us once again that he is looking out for the interests of his corporate cronies instead of looking out for the interests of the sick and suffering at home and abroad.”
While Senator Bernie Sanders drew attention to the harmful effects of these secrecy moves, other US politicians were notably silent, despite consistent polling data that the staggeringly high costs of medicines is a leading cause of anger among voters.
“The new resolution is a baby step in the right direction—price transparency is critical for negotiating more affordable medicines ,” said Brook Baker, Senior Policy Advisor at Health GAP. “But without accompanying transparency regarding the actual costs of drug development and manufacturing, and the extensive federal and charitable contributions and tax breaks that subsidize research and development, price transparency is woefully insufficient. Given industry’s constant recourse to a cost-of-research defense to justify skyrocketing prices, we are outraged by the harmful moves of Secretary Azar to strip transparency of verifiable costs from this important resolution.”
Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life saving medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.