[Day 4] 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference: A binding research and development treaty to improve access to medicines – Feasible?

Day 4 at the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference was welcomed by clear blue skies and sunshine as opposed to the clouds and day experienced the day prior.  Perhaps, this was a symbol of hope as PAHO moves into a new period with the election of the new Regional Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne yesterday. There is hope that the results of this meeting will not only be on paper, but will also become a reality in our region – the Americas.

During the morning plenary session, one of the more controversial resolutions that was tabled the day prior would be discussed amongst member states and civil society. At the World Health Assembly earlier in May, a report entitled Research and Development to Meet Health Needs in Developing Countries: Strengthening Global Financing and Coordination by the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on Research and Development. The report comes at a pivotal time when not only is the global economy unable to affordable the rising costs of medicines and treatments but also a time where there is a dearth of new medical products especially for those of neglected disease populations.

The report in its recommendations strives to align the incentives of industry in creating medical products for the purpose of profit with that of public health needs to allow for affordable access for patients. Additionally, the CEWG calls for member states to sign onto a binding treaty recommending a 0.01% of the GDP contribution towards a R&D fund. Many member states were adamantly against this proposal – most notably the first speaker, the United States stating that the first goal should not be asking for a dollar amount from countries in trying to overcome the R&D crisis, but rather focusing on implementing new models for innovation. Ironically, however, the United States did acknowledge that they contribute much more than 0.01% of their GDP towards R&D. Other countries voiced similar concerns including France as an observer state. There were a few countries however who voiced support for the recommendation of a binding treaty including Argentina, Colombia and Suriname.

Following member-states, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and IFMSA as representatives from civil society were permitted to read their interventions. To read MSF’s statement, go here: ow.ly/dTnbF. Reshma Ramachandran of the IFMSA delegation read aloud IFMSA’s intervention as follows:

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) welcomes the CEWG report on financing and coordination for R&D. Traditionally, the strengthening of intellectual property rights has been used as a primary method to spur innovation. This incentive, however, has not always proven fruitful especially for treatments not taken chronically such as vaccines and antibiotics – pharmaceutical classes that have seen a decline in R&D investment. In fact, in the Americas, case documentation has shown a rise in “superbugs” leading to patient deaths due to the lack of new antibiotics in the pipeline.

With such low investment in essential medicines due to failed R&D incentives, millions of our patients will continue to be neglected. Additionally, stricter intellectual property rights have led to the emergence of pharmaceutical monopolies and higher treatment costs, further burdening member states under economic strain. We, as future physicians, support the CEWG report in its mission to “align better commercial incentives and actions by the public sector with health needs, while also seeking to minimize costs.”

Representing over 1.3 million medical students worldwide, IFMSA respectfully urges member states to begin formal negotiations towards implementation of the CEWG report proposals. As healthcare providers, we wish to provide the best, most-evidence based treatments possible to our patients. This report provides a rare opportunity to merge the need for increased biomedical innovation with our professional responsibilities to our patients through coordinated public investment.

FIRST, public investments of innovative approaches to global health research such as those detailed in the report have led to great progress in overcoming current market failures. The CEWG proposals are already in place in the Americas. For example, the NIH National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences (NCATS) assists firms with their pre-clinical efforts in order to meet FDA requirements for investigational new drug applications so that drugs can reach first in-human clinical trials. Smaller companies and academic centers particularly benefit from this, garnering additional contributors to innovation. We therefore believe member-states should begin implementation of such successful models as outlined in CEWG report.

SECOND, many institutions and governments have already adopted Open Knowledge R&D mechanisms as recommended by the CEWG. In May of this year, Argentina passed a law making all government-funded research freely available in an online repository. NIH in the United States through its Public Access Policy ensures that NIH-funded research is available for free online within one year of publication. Such commitments to open access not only benefit patients and providers but also allows for the free flow of information to hasten innovation.

THIRD, several countries in the Americas are currently involved in secret negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Leaked TPP text includes provisions that will severely limit access to research and affordable medicines through extended data exclusivity and patent periods as well as low standards for patentability allowing essentially copies of older medications to receive patents. We are concerned that the CEWG proposals will be undermined by adoption of such TPP provisions especially in those member-states in the partnership.

FINALLY, we believe it is necessary that member-states adopt the CEWG’s recommendation regarding financing by contributing 0.01% of their GDP. Such commitment to R&D requires secure financing and this can only be achieved through funding commitments, not voluntary contributions.  One model mentioned earlier, the Global Fund, has in fact suffered from a lack of accountability from voluntary national contributors leading to the lack of funding of new proposals in 2011 and an uncertain future. We urge member-states to make such a commitment through a binding convention in order to ensure the success of such proposals detailed in the report.

We again ask member states to begin negotiations to implement the report’s recommendations as there is a dire need for novel, life saving treatments for our patients, especially those of neglected disease populations

The intervention was well received by member-states as well as those in PAHO who drafted the CEWG, sparking interesting discussion between IFMSA members and others about the real possibility of a binding treaty. From IFMSA’s point of view, without such a binding treaty, there will be no accountability or hope that the recommendations will be adopted by member states. In November, discussion will continue regarding the CEWG report and its implementation. IFMSA hopes to be present there as well to offer its support and suggestions along with the rest of civil society.

During the lunch break, the IFMSA delegation attended the Second Information Session on the Global Fund. The overall objective of this meeting was “Improved positioning of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Global Fund’s governance and operational structures”. The meeting was geared towards:

  • Reviewing recent changes on the funding modalities for the Caribbean and Latin America region
  • Exploring possible collaborations to increase the ability of the member states and the region to best address issues relating to Malaria, AIDS and Tuberculosis.

What is the Global Fund?

Malaria, TB and AIDS affect many persons worldwide and not only are these diseases devastating, but more importantly, they are preventable. The Global Fund dedicates financial support to about 150 countries to aid in the prevention and treatment of these diseases. This is especially important within the Caribbean and Latin America region where there are many developing countries that without these resources would have found it impossible to tackle these maladies.

One area of policy change of the Global Fund is that countries will now be placed in bands based on the earnings of the countries. The focus of the Fund will then be directed on those countries that experience the highest disease burden and have the greatest difficulty in funding interventions. It is purported that this change will ensure that there will be decreased morbidity and mortality from these diseases. The member states however questioned the use of the World Bank’s Income Classification in determining the economical status of each country. This classification uses the gross national income (GNI) per capita. It does not take into consideration debt or spending requirements of the countries.

Some countries within this region, however, thought this would present more harm than good for their nations. Jamaica, for example was listed as one of the countries that would have a cut in the funds that would normally be received. The Minister of Health, however, pointed out that as it relates to AIDS, this would have negative impacts for the island as the Ministry would now have great difficulty in funding wages for persons who were trained and now employed by the Ministry to head prevention and information campaigns in the move to eradicate HIV/AIDS.  The Minister suggested that when changes are to be made in funding policies, more time should be given to enable countries to better transition so that their achievements may be maintained or improved. Another issue with the changes was whether it would be taken into consideration those countries that have formed economical collaborations because they are unable to face to global market individually.

The meeting also reviewed the targets of the region for 2012-2013:

  • Promote treatment optimization in at least 5-7 countries
  • Accelerate Mother to Child transmission in at least 3-5 countries

Reshma Ramachandran (AMSA-USA) and Sachalee Campbell (JAMSA)

61st General Assembly, August Meeting 2012–The Indian Experience (MSAI-India)

The next IFMSA General Assembly, August Meeting 2012 will be held in Mumbai, India. The host is one of our most recent candidate members MSAI (IFMSA-India). The theme will focus on universal health care. Need for Universal Health Care

Theme: Universal Health Care – The Time is Now!

Universal health care – sometimes referred to as universal health coverage, universal coverage, universal care or social health protection – describes health care systems organized around providing a specified package of benefits to all members of a society with the end goal of providing financial risk protection, improved access to health services, and improved health outcomes (World Health Report, 2010).

Last year, our Federation renewed its commitment to the vision of Alma Ata – a world where health is a fundamental human right, a universal societal goal, and a state of well-being enjoyed by everyone. In short, health is for all.

Our tracks…

  • In March Meeting 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia we looked into the gross disparities in health that continue to afflict the majority of the world’s peoples.
  • Our 60th anniversary General Assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark last August Meeting 2011, we imagined the future of health and looked into various ways towards achieving a healthier and more just world. Image
  • March Meeting 2012 in Accra, Ghana, we recognized action on social determinants of health as the key intervention for achieving global health equity.

Action…

Beginning by addressing health inequalities through action on social determinants of health?

The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health identified the health system as one of the crucial determinants of health within countries, and proposed that universal access to health care as a starting point. Today, nearly 100 countries are investing huge resources, establishing agencies, commissioning researches, and holding consultations as they all rush towards the finish line of universal health coverage.

In line with IFMSA’s commitment on this, Universal Health Care will be the theme for the IFMSA General Assembly this August Meeting 2012.

India is a great place to collaborate, share, exchange and build efforts surrounding universal health care. India is a country experiencing a transition towards provisions of easily accessible and affordable health care to all Indians by 2022. A national health-insurance scheme geared towards increasing access for the poor started rolling in April 2008, and so far it has enabled 100 million to have cashless, paperless, portable access to inpatient health care provided by more than 8,000 public and private hospitals across the country. India is more than willing to share its universal health care journey to IFMSA, and to learn from other health systems through IFMSA’s medical students from around the world.

Through the theme events of IFMSA-India and the OC, they hope to gather in one room the leaders of the Universal Health Care movement in India and the amazing medical student-advocates of IFMSA, and spark dynamic discussions about how universal health care can be a reality – and how we doctors-in-training can play our part.

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Mumbai

Mumbai being the hosting city for IFMSA’s 62nd GA – AM 2012 India is, known as the commercial capital of India. Before 1996, Mumbai was known as ‘Bombay. Its original name ‘Bombay’ emerged from the Portugal term ‘Bom Bahai’ meaning good bay/harbor. It is also known as Manchester of India. With the opening up of the Suez Canal in 1869 the city’s future as India’s primary port, was assured. Now, it is the second biggest city in the world.

IndiaImage

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west, China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

ImageHome to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four of the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region’s diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance and led by Mahatma Gandhi.

The Indian economy is the world’s tenth-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialized country. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 28 states and 7 union territories. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multi-ethnic society.

IFMSA-INDIA (MSAI)

MSAI – The Medical Students Association of India is India’s largest represented Medical Student Organization & the offical organization that represents IFMSA – India

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Mission
To be a forum for medical students throughout the world to discuss topics related to health, education and medicine; to formulate policies from such discussions and to carry out appropriate activities; To promote humanitarian ideals and medical ethics amongst medical students; To act as a mechanism for medical students’ professional and scientific exchange and projects; To be a body through which cooperation and contacts with other international organizations are established; To act as a mechanism for member organizations to raise funds for projects recognized by the IFMSA.

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Description
India finally joined the IFMSA family and today Medical Students’ Association of India is also known as “IFMSA INDIA.” Our mission is to improve the medical education and public health care management in India & our vision is to enhance medical education, facilitate & establish communication between student organization, not to forget organize rural health programs in the country.

 

http://www.msa-india.org

Author: Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE 2011/12

Contacts:

OC Chair || Pratap Naidu A. Contact: am2012india@msa-india.org

IFMSA Requests: gs@ifmsa.org


4-day-experience in the 36th General Conference of UNESCO…

Now that I’m back home sitting on my desk and far from the UNESCO world,I can just tell you that the last days in the “big house” were an amazing experience!

For one day and a hafl(26th and 27th),Discussions at the forum were focused on “How does UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development”. It provided an opportunity to explore bold and innovative ideas and ways of promoting peace and prosperity in a globalized world, through UNESCO’s fields of competence. Keynote addresses were made day by  Pal Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary,  Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon,  Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada,  Pascal Irenée Koupaki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Benin. Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, Boris Tadic, President of the Republic of Serbia and other special and important participants.

On the 28th morning and just before heading to the airport,I assisted to the presentation of the Youth Forum draft by the 2 youth delegates.A special thank was made by the representative of Indonesia followed by a big applause from the member states.

During evening social events,me and Roopa were socializing with the delegates and gathering the contacts of the National Commissions.We even talked about the March Meeting2012 to the representatives of Ghana who promised to arrange a meeting with the Minister of Education on Monday.

Most of the UNESCO offices in the countries belong to the Ministry of Education and they seem open to youth participation.For instance,encouranging the youth particpation in the National Commissions was one of the most recurrent recommendations of the Youth Forum and the General Conference.

I also had the chance to meet many interesting UNESCO staff: Mme Sonia Bahri,the chief of Science Policy & Capacity Building division,Mme Monthy,training officer at the Training & Career  Development Section who enlighted me about the internship in UNESCO and others that helped me a lot in my work.And what’s better than a dinner in a chic French restaurant with my predecessor Maxime Moulin (LO to UNESCO 2009-2010)!!!

I feel really sad that I had to leave before the end of the General Conference.Every day spent in UNESCO headquarter offers new opportunities for IFMSA.

This is the end of my first and not last adventure in Paris.I can proudly say that IFMSA participation was a real success and that we met all our expectations .

This is just the beginning of a long partnership story between IFMSA and UNESCO…