States face mounting calls to improve drug price transparency

WHO has for years supported calls for drug pricing transparency, arguing that a more balanced market would improve access to life-saving drugs, notably in lower income countries. (AFP pic)

GENEVA: Governments attending the World Health Organisation’s annual meeting faced mounting pressure on Thursday to adopt a resolution to improve drug price transparency, which has faced resistance from several key states.

Nearly 50 civil society groups, led by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), have issued an open letter urging nations to pass the measure being debated at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week.

Activists are pushing for “four very simple things,” Gaelle Krikorian, policy chief at MSF’s Access Campaign, told reporters.

They include full transparency on the actual prices that governments pay to procure drugs as well as transparency from companies about their net revenues – once research and developments costs, tax breaks and other subsidies are factored in.

The resolution also calls for data from clinical trials to be made public and for more transparency on patents, so that generic drugs can be produced once exclusivity on a product expires.

The text introduced by Italy has been backed by roughly a dozen countries, including Greece, Malaysia, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, among others.

Britain, Germany, Switzerland and the United States have sought to significantly alter the resolution, according to a publicly available version of the text.

The WHO meeting is due to hold a formal debate on the text on Friday.

Salome Meyer of the South African NGO Cancer Alliance accused certain states of “trying to kill” the resolution.

WHO has for years supported calls for drug pricing transparency, arguing that a more balanced market would improve access to life-saving drugs, notably in lower income countries.

“There is plenty of evidence in the literature that there is little transparency in the way medicines prices are set,” WHO spokeswoman Daniela Bagozzi told AFP.

“We think that greater transparency would help countries to make more informed decisions when purchasing medicines and may enable them to negotiate more affordable prices,” she added.