• Promotion of access to essential medicines for Non-Communicable Diseases: Practical implications of the UN Political Declaration

      Hogerzeil, Hans V; Liberman, Jonathan; Wirtz, Veronika J; Kishore, Sandeep P; Selvaraj, Sakthi; Kiddell-Monroe, Rachel; Mwangi-Powell, Faith N; von Schoen-Angerer, Tido; Department of Global Health, University of Groningen, University Medical Centre, Groningen, Netherlands. h.v.hogerzeil@umcg.nl (2013-02-12)
      Access to medicines and vaccines to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is unacceptably low worldwide. In the 2011 UN political declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs, heads of government made several commitments related to access to essential medicines, technologies, and vaccines for such diseases. 30 years of experience with policies for essential medicines and 10 years of scaling up of HIV treatment have provided the knowledge needed to address barriers to long-term effective treatment and prevention of NCDs. More medicines can be acquired within existing budgets with efficient selection, procurement, and use of generic medicines. Furthermore, low-income and middle-income countries need to increase mobilisation of domestic resources to cater for the many patients with NCDs who do not have access to treatment. Existing initiatives for HIV treatment offer useful lessons that can enhance access to pharmaceutical management of NCDs and improve adherence to long-term treatment of chronic illness; policy makers should also address unacceptable inequities in access to controlled opioid analgesics. In addition to off-patent medicines, governments can promote access to new and future on-patent medicinal products through coherent and equitable health and trade policies, particularly those for intellectual property. Frequent conflicts of interest need to be identified and managed, and indicators and targets for access to NCD medicines should be used to monitor progress. Only with these approaches can a difference be made to the lives of hundreds of millions of current and future patients with NCDs.
    • A win-win solution?: A critical analysis of tiered pricing to improve access to medicines in developing countries

      Moon, Suerie; Jambert, Elodie; Childs, Michelle; von Schoen-Angerer, Tido; Harvard Kennedy School and School of Public Health, Boston, USA; Médecins Sans Frontières, Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Geneva, Switzerland (BioMed Central, 2011-10-12)
      Background: Tiered pricing - the concept of selling drugs and vaccines in developing countries at prices systematically lower than in industrialized countries - has received widespread support from industry, policymakers, civil society, and academics as a way to improve access to medicines for the poor. We carried out case studies based on a review of international drug price developments for antiretrovirals, artemisinin combination therapies, drug-resistant tuberculosis medicines, liposomal amphotericin B (for visceral leishmaniasis), and pneumococcal vaccines. Discussion: We found several critical shortcomings to tiered pricing: it is inferior to competition for achieving the lowest sustainable prices; it often involves arbitrary divisions between markets and/or countries, which can lead to very high prices for middle-income markets; and it leaves a disproportionate amount of decision-making power in the hands of sellers vis-à-vis consumers. In many developing countries, resources are often stretched so tight that affordability can only be approached by selling medicines at or near the cost of production. Policies that “de-link” the financing of R&D from the price of medicines merit further attention, since they can reward innovation while exploiting robust competition in production to generate the lowest sustainable prices. However, in special cases - such as when market volumes are very small or multi-source production capacity is lacking - tiered pricing may offer the only practical option to meet short-term needs for access to a product. In such cases, steps should be taken to ensure affordability and availability in the longer-term. Summary: To ensure access to medicines for populations in need, alternate strategies should be explored that harness the power of competition, avoid arbitrary market segmentation, and/or recognize government responsibilities. Competition should generally be the default option for achieving affordability, as it has proven superior to tiered pricing for reliably achieving the lowest sustainable prices.