Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Local production to improve access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics

IMG 9447---CopyBrussels - Producing quality medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests locally is one way low and middle-income countries can improve people's access to them, as is highlighted in a series of new reports released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Brussels today.

"This is the first study of this type that seeks to analyse how industry, trade and health policies can work together towards shared goals to both further economic development and improve public health,." said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director General for Innovation, Information, Evidence and Research at WHO.

The study highlights the challenge governments face in balancing the availability of quality-assured medical products that meet priority public health needs with ensuring that products are acceptable and affordable. Imports of affordable medicines, often generics manufactured in India and China, are one solution but the reports highlight a growing trend towards domestic production. The authors bring together evidence from a wide range of countries that are building a viable local manufacturing industry. These include Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan, and Uganda.

Zafar Mirza from WHO's department of Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property added, "Local production should be assessed not just on its economic feasibility. With the right financial incentives and regulation from government, local production should also be supported in a way that increases its potential to improve public health."

The reports are brought together in a summary document entitled Local production for access to medical products – developing a framework to improve public health. This framework emphasizes the importance of having a long-term vision and coherence across national policies. This means aligning policies on issues as diverse as medical regulation, industrial and investment policies, science, technology and innovation policies, intellectual property policies, health insurance policies, procurement policies, and technology transfer. It identifies five shared goals of industrial and health policy where incentives for local producers need to be matched with real improvements in access.

The work has been supported with funding from the European Union.

Kader Arif, member of the European Parliament Working Group on Access to Medicines, Innovation and Neglected Diseases, said, "I feel there are some interesting findings in this work, particularly as the global economy shifts and it is uncertain if developing countries will still be able to rely on a supply of affordable generic medicines from the traditional sources of India and China. A lot still needs to be done at the political level to deal with the overall access-to-medicines issue, in the context of a fast evolving intellectual property rights regime. I hope local manufacturers and governments will consider this guidance and I look forward to the next stage in the development of the project, where the framework will be piloted in a number of countries to demonstrate how access to these drugs and medical equipment can be improved where they are needed most."

Read associated Notes

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO
Coalition for Health, Ethics and Society (CHES) Annual Lecture: Advancing European health amidst global crises Brussels, Belgium, 5 December 2011

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