News Update on Transparency resolution at the 72nd World Health Assembly (20-28 May, 2019)

At this year’s WHA, governments are negotiating the text of a resolution on “Improving the transparency of markets for drugs, vaccines and other health-related technologies,” which was proposed by Italy in February 2019. If passed, the resolution would be a major step towards improving affordable prices for all essential medical tools worldwide. Today, a lack of transparency around what different countries pay for medicines, and the actual cost of researching, developing and manufacturing them, allows pharmaceutical corporations to charge exorbitant and arbitrary prices.

Current state of play:

Twelve countries have now submitted a revised text for the transparency resolution to the WHO to start negotiations: Italy, Greece, Egypt, Malaysia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda. This takes into account the outcomes of the negotiations that were held between 7th and 10th May, ahead of the WHA. The negotiations on this revised text started on Tuesday, took place today and will most likely continue on Thursday.

As negotiations continue and support for the resolution is being built, only a handful of countries are still seeking to undermine the resolution: Germany, UK, Switzerland, Denmark, despite the difficulties they face with the high price of medicines. Canada, New Zealand and Australia are also apparently strongly opposed to the resolution.

On the latest version of the resolution text:

The resolution has been slightly modified after negotiations last week, to allow member states more flexibility to implement the resolution. Yet, the core of the resolution is still very much the same, asking for:

  1. Price transparency, countries will share and disclose real prices paid for medicines
  2. Cost transparency, requiring companies to publicly disclose: Sales revenues, the costs directly associated with each clinical trial used to support the marketing authorization of a product or procedure, and all grants, tax credits or any other public sector subsidies and incentives relating to the initial regulatory approval
  3. Clinical trial transparency, requiring all data on clinical trials of medicines to be made publicly available;
  4. More transparency on patent landscapes, to minimize legal uncertainty if and when products lose exclusivity and to facilitate generic competition;
  5. Mandate WHO to be a facilitator in the data collection and analysis, and in the exchange of information.

What industry is saying about price transparency:                                                        

The pharmaceutical industry continues to argue that price transparency will prevent low- and middle-income countries from being offered more affordable prices.  MSF very much disagrees, as the reality is that today these countries do not get medicines at affordable prices. Price transparency would expose that reality and enable countries to be in a stronger position to negotiate better medicine prices.

What’s next:

There are deep divisions between the position of the few countries that oppose the resolution and a large group of countries that sees value in the initiative. It’s unclear right now how things will develop: the text could be weakened, strengthened, adopted, postponed or put up for a vote.

We will keep you posted. For more information or to speak to our spokespeople, please contact us at: Elise Erickson @+41-798864601/Elise.ERICKSON@geneva.msf.org

About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign

In 1999, in the wake of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, MSF launched the Access Campaign. Its purpose has been to push for access to, and the development of life-saving and life prolonging medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines for patients in MSF programmes and beyond.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign
Rue de Lausanne 78
P.O Box 1016
CH-1211 Geneva 1
Switzerland