World Health Organization (WHO)

Research Paper 126, December 2020

How Civil Society Action can Contribute to Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

By Mirza Alas Portillo

One of the key groups of actors that must be recognized for their influential role in shaping health policy outcomes are civil society organizations (CSOs). The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) space is no exception. AMR is one of the most significant health threats of our time, and many CSOs have had a critical role in shaping the national, regional and global responses to this health threat. However, CSOs working in the AMR space have received little financial support. In the final report submitted to the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group (IACG) on AMR recommended increasing collaboration, as doing so is necessary for effective action and is an essential part of tackling AMR. IACG also provided specific recommendations for strengthening the engagement of CSOs. While the need for this engagement is broadly recognized, there is limited literature documenting how CSOs have been involved in shaping AMR policies. Increased evidence can strengthen the case for expanding financial support to CSOs work on AMR. A critical look into how CSOs are spearheading campaigns to tackle AMR and promoting accountability through monitoring governments’, international organizations’ and other actors’ AMR-related commitments, particularly in developing countries, would be especially useful.

This paper aims to contribute to the analysis of CSOs involvement in the global AMR response. It begins by defining what constitutes a CSO and offers examples of how CSOs have contributed to addressing other critical health issues to draw lessons for handling AMR. It then undertakes a case analysis of a prominent CSO coalition, the Antibiotic Resistance Coalition (ARC), and describes that organization’s essential contributions in the AMR space. Finally, the paper offers reflections on why CSO participation in the AMR space needs to be further enhanced and supported.

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Documento de Investigación 107, Diciembre 2020

Guía para la concesión de licencias obligatorias y uso gubernamental de patentes farmacéuticas  

Por Carlos M. Correa

Al igual que otros derechos, los derechos de patente no son absolutos. Hay situaciones en las que su ejercicio puede limitarse para proteger los intereses públicos. Esas situaciones pueden surgir, por ejemplo, cuando debe garantizarse el acceso a los productos farmacéuticos necesarios. Las licencias obligatorias y el uso gubernamental con fines no comerciales son instrumentos, previstos en la mayoría de las leyes de todo el mundo, que pueden utilizarse específicamente para atender las necesidades de salud pública. El presente documento tiene por objeto proporcionar orientación jurídica para el uso eficaz de esos instrumentos, de conformidad con el derecho internacional.

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Research Paper 125, December 2020

Designing Pro-Health Competition Policies in Developing Countries  

By Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido

Competition law and policy has become an important tool for countries to promote access to pharmaceuticals. How can countries design and enforce competition policies that are suitable to the particularities of developing countries? What are the main anti-competitive tactics in the pharmaceutical sector, and how should they be dealt with? This paper deals with these issues, taking into account the socio-economic relevance of access to health products. It finds that developing countries should apply their competition laws in the pharmaceutical sector more actively, and that there is ample policy space under international law to do so. It provides an overview of the way in which competition policies have been applied in some industrialized and developing countries and explores how such policies can be designed and implemented in the context of developing countries.

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Research Paper 124, November 2020

Practical Implications of ‘Vaccine Nationalism’: A Short-Sighted and Risky Approach in Response to COVID-19

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD

To end the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a return of normalcy, an effective and safe vaccine is the best hope. The vaccine nationalism approach, adopted by some countries to gain preferential access to emerging COVID-19 vaccines, poses a threat to the fair and equitable distribution of the potential vaccines across the globe. This research paper critically evaluates the approach of vaccine nationalism and argues that this self-centred political behaviour of leaving others behind is short-sighted, potentially risky, morally indefensible, and practically inefficient in containing the pandemic. This paper highlights why it is important for national governments to support the collaborative and coordinated effort of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility for the timely development and efficient delivery of potential COVID-19 vaccines. It concludes that an effective response to the current health and economic crisis should be guided by values of international solidarity, multilateralism, equality, and global collaboration. It proposes the adoption of an enforceable global framework to address the concerns arising from the combination of vaccine nationalism and intellectual property exclusivities.

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Documento de Investigación 121, Noviembre 2020

Las reformas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud en la época de COVID-19

Por Germán Velásquez

A lo largo de sus 70 años de historia la OMS ha pasado por varias reformas lideradas por varios directores generales, como Halfdan Mahler en la Conferencia de Alma ata sobre la atención primaria de salud, 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland con su « reach out to the private sector » 1998, Margaret Chan con su inconcluso debate sobre el rol de « los autores no estatales » 2012 . Una vez mas, y de forma contundente la crisis sanitaria del 2020 pone en evidencia la fragilidad de la Organización y nos revela que la OMS no tiene los instrumentos y mecanismos legales necesarios para aplicar sus normas y orientaciones y que su manera de financiamiento no es sostenible y adecuada para responder al desafío de la COVID-19. Este documento trata de identificar cuales son los problemas principales de que sufre la OMS y cuales serian las medidas necesarias que una reforma de la Organización tendría que abordar.

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Statement, November 2020

South Centre Statement to the WHA 73 Session

Item 13

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that, despite the magnitude of the global health challenges it has to face, the WHO is currently unable to fully enforce its directives, norms and standards. It also shows that its funding is neither sustainable nor adequate to respond effectively to current and future global health crises. Overreliance on voluntary targeted funding puts at risk its capacity to operate as the global agency responsible for public health. These are some of the main challenges facing the WHO today.

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SouthViews No. 208, 19 October 2020

Access to medical supplies and devices — the lesser known story of COVID-19 and medical monopoly

By Salimah Valiani

Discussions around access to potential vaccines for COVID-19 are widespread, particularly in the global South. Much less discussed is the lack of access to already existing medical technology crucial to stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus and assisting its most severely affected victims. The latter is the outcome of the monopoly control of medical technology — a phenomenon stretching at least as long as the monopoly of Big PHARMA — though much less understood.

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SouthViews No. 207, 28 September 2020

Is the right to exclusivity a Hamlet question?

By Justice Prabha Sridevan

Today the judicial authority may be faced with balancing patent rights and patients’ rights or right to life. It shall use all the tools at its command and innovate if necessary, but shall rule in favour of life.

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Policy Brief 84, September 2020

A New Trend in Trade Agreements: Ensuring Access to Cancer Drugs

By Maria Fabiana Jorge

A World Health Organization (WHO) report on cancer indicates that the cancer burden will increase at least by 60% over the next two decades, straining health systems and communities.  Companies develop cancer drugs in part because payers are less resistant to paying high drug prices for these drugs.  As Barbara Rimer, Dean of the University of North Carolina and Chair of the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel stated, “[m]ost cancer drugs launched in the United States between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment.”  Many of the new cancer drugs are biologics. Such prices are clearly out of reach for most patients who will need them increasingly more to stay alive.  While competition is critical to ensure lower drug prices, we have seen a number of strategies, including through trade agreements, to prevent competition and extend monopolies over these drugs and their very high drug prices.  It is no accident that the exclusivity granted to biologic drugs has been one of the most conflictive provisions in recent trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  Nevertheless a new trend in trade agreements started in 2007 when U.S. Members of Congress pushed back against the interests of powerful economic groups seeking longer monopolies for drugs.  These Members of the U.S. Congress prevailed then in restoring some balance in the trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama and further consolidated this new trend in 2019 in the USMCA.  Moreover, following the U.S. withdrawal from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the negotiators of the remaining 11 countries also pushed back to ensure a better balance between innovation and access in the CPTPP.  People around the world need to be aware of these precedents and ensure that they also work for access to medicines for their own citizens.

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Research Paper 118, September 2020

Re-thinking Global and Local Manufacturing of Medical Products After COVID-19

By Dr. Germán Velásquez

The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since the first quarter of 2020 has reopened the now-urgent discussion about the role of local pharmaceutical production in addressing the health needs in developing countries. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the interdependencies in the global production of pharmaceuticals—no country is self-sufficient. Many industrialized countries are making the decision to repatriate or initiate the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines. Governments are beginning to talk about ‘pharmaceutical sovereignty’ or ‘health security’. If this becomes a reality and the production of pharmaceuticals is led by nationalistic policies, developing countries that still lack manufacturing capacity will have to start or expand the local production of pharmaceuticals, whether at the national or regional level. The war to get access to the future vaccine for COVID-19 does not look easy with these new developments.

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Document de Recherche 100, Septembre 2020

Médicaments et propriété intellectuelle: 10 ans de la stratégie mondiale de l’OMS

Par Dr. Germán Velásquez

Les négociations du Groupe de travail intergouvernemental sur la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle connu sous le nom de “IGWG” (2006-2008), menées par les Etats Membres de l’OMS, sont le résultat d’une impasse à l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé du 6 décembre 2006 où les Etats Membres n’ont pu parvenir à un accord sur les 60 recommandations du rapport” Santé publique, innovation et propriété intellectuelle “soumis la même année par un groupe d’experts désigné par le Directeur général de l’OMS. Le résultat de ces négociations devint la “Stratégie mondiale et Plan d’action pour la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle” (GSPOA), approuvé par l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé en 2008. Un des objectifs de la Stratégie mondiale élaboré par l’IGWG était de réformer en profondeur le système d’innovation pharmaceutique, en raison de son incapacité à produire des médicaments abordables contre les maladies qui affligent une grande partie de la population du monde vivant dans les pays en développement. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle (PI) imposés par l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce (ADPIC) et les accords commerciaux pourraient devenir des principaux obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments. Le GSPOA a fait une analyse critique de cette réalité et a mené à la recherche de nouvelles solutions à ce problème. Dix ans après l’approbation du GSPOA, les résultats restent incertains et médiocres.

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SouthViews No. 205, 31 August 2020

Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and national measures: approaches and perspectives

By Jorge Cabrera Medaglia

Digital sequence information (DSI, or genetic sequence data) is an emerging aspect of synthetic biology which involves certain functional genetic sequences being shared by different means. The genetic sequences from plants, animals or micro-organisms could be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, to develop and commercialize new products and processes, or for other purposes. The regulation of the use of DSI for both commercial and non-commercial entities may have huge implications for the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) regimen established in the international instruments, ongoing processes and regional and national legislation that implement these conventions. International guidance is needed to promote a coordinated approach to secure fair and equitable sharing of benefits while avoiding a negative impact on the non-commercial benefits arising from the genetic data.

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