“We, the undersigned, demand from our governments policies that treat pharmaceuticals as global public goods and limit the power of pharmaceutical companies in the public interest; a policy that is geared to the health needs of the people.” A call initiated by BUKO Pharma-Kampagne and medico international (Germany), Outras Palavras (Brazil), People’s Health Movement and Society for International Development

The world has become a patient. The new corona virus is a global medical riddle that governments, pharmaceutical companies and international organizations are trying to decipher in a unity rarely seen before. The level of cross-border exchange of data, research methods and evidence underlines the crucial role played by transnational communities of scientists* and experts*. With the development and the clinical testing of a vaccine, many hope that the virus will be all but contained, the rest a matter of logistics.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Because the history of every epidemic is also a story of the interplay of knowledge, power and politics. Not only do some governments downplay the danger of the virus, thereby endangering thousands of lives. In order to be able to counter Covid-19 successfully, the world’s governments must first create the conditions for making research results transparent and accessible and for considering medical knowledge including treatment options as the common good of mankind. This is required in order to find a vaccine more quickly and at the same time to ensure equitable distribution of it.

As we have learnt after the introduction of the TRIPS monopoly regime for the management of intellectual property 25 years ago by the WTO, the global system of patents has increasingly geared knowledge production in the health sector towards profits and returns on investments, rather than towards the research and development of much needed medicines and their distribution – especially where people cannot afford them. While inequitable health systems continue to exclude many vulnerable communities from care because of their background and income, at the same time this has long since ceased to be geographically confined. The zones of exclusion range from refugee camps to urban slums to entire countries.

A global injustice that reaches beyond Coronavirus: Despite rapid medical progress and the existence of medicines to cure or treat, millions of people die every year in this world from diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes or AIDS. The WHO estimates that one third of all patients* globally don’t have access to urgently needed medicines due to high prices and other structural barriers. Moreover, only a fraction of all health research is dealing with health problems of the globally marginalized people. The pharmaceutical industry mainly researches and develops medicines that can be marketed profitably. And this patent model ensures that even those medicines developed with public funds are kept at a high prices. This is a form of privatisation that ignores the fact that a public research and development (R+D) mechanism would be economically more favourable than re-financing R+D through patents and high prices. Selective changes to this system, such as the price reduction for HIV/AIDS drugs, needed years of international public protest and activism, only to see new access barriers emerging for patients when last generation medical tools became necessary.

In addition, the patent system creates barriers to research itself by patenting increasingly research methods and tools. So it has become one of the greatest global obstacles in the supply of life-saving medicines to people. Overcoming this system is a feasible anticipation of a future in which essential social services should be freed from the market and profit principle.

And now – in the midst of the pandemic – the momentum has come to make this fundamental policy change. The corona pandemic shows that health policy is a global task that governments must undertake with a sense of responsibility for the common interest, and it must be guided by human rights principles – being able to saving lives is a key strategy for a healthy social contract between a government and its society.

We, the undersigned, demand from our governments that health needs of the people must override profit interests, medicines must be understood as global public goods and the power of pharmaceutical companies must be regulated. An indispensable element of this is the delinking of research costs and price for essential medicines and transparency of medical knowledge.

The foundation for this must be laid by an international treaty to be negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization for the mandatory, coordinated funding of research and development for essential medicines, diagnostics and vaccines.

Because this fundamental change of direction has yet to be achieved politically, the following measures must be taken immediately:

  • Consistent demand for Equitable Licensing of all publicly funded research and development projects to secure public ownership of the results.
  • A compulsory global patent pool for health knowledge production to enable an easier and more cost-effective handling of licensing agreements, based at the WHO.
  • Supporting local pharmaceutical production in public responsibility in countries that do not have their own production capacities (through technology transfer and increasing regulatory capacity
  • The creation of efficient regional distribution systems for medicines and all needed medical products to ensure that the prices are affordable and not profit-oriented.

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Source: medico international
Read the entire call here
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