Opening remarks by the WHO Director-General at the meeting on the availability, accessibility, affordability of medicines and medical devices for a stronger and resilient EU

GENEVA, April 29, 2021 / PRNewswire Policy / – Your Excellency Marta Temido,

Your excellence Stella Kyriakides,

Dolors Montserrat,

Distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today on this very important subject at this very important time.

Access to medicines and medical products has always been a central element of health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this even more vividly.

In the early days of the pandemic, the availability of personal protective equipment for health workers was a major challenge, as you will recall.

We have also had significant issues with the accessibility of diagnostics and medical oxygen, which is costing lives, as we are now seeing in India.

And as you know, inequitable access to vaccines is one of the defining challenges of the pandemic.

So far, more than a billion doses have been administered worldwide, but 82% of them have been administered in high and upper middle income countries, while only 0.3% have. been in low-income countries.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the urgent need for more resilient health systems capable of ensuring uninterrupted availability, affordability and equitable access to medicines and medical technologies.

Medicines and medical devices are essential at every step of the continuum of care, from prevention to diagnosis, including treatment, monitoring, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Yet too often these products are unavailable or unaffordable for those who need them.

Even when drugs are available, associated medical devices often are not.

For example, very few countries provide test strips as part of diabetes care programs to help monitor blood sugar levels in people. who need insulin.

There are an estimated 1 billion people in the world and 44 million in the European Union need assistive products such as wheelchairs, glasses, hearing aids and white canes, but only 10-15% have access to these essentials.

The challenges are numerous: insufficient investment in research and development; lack of effective policies for selecting health products; inadequate management of funding and expenditure; weak regulatory capacity; and insufficient resources for procurement and supply chain management, to name a few.

For decades, WHOThe prequalification program has played a major role in shaping global market dynamics and improving accessibility and affordability of drugs, biosimilars and diagnostics.

WHO also supports countries in the selection of drugs and other health products with the WHO Model list of essential drugs, the list of essential in vitro diagnostics, the list of priority medical devices and the list of priority assistive devices.

Let me leave you with three specific areas in which WHO believes that we must act:

First, closer collaboration.

WHO already works with the European Medicines Agency, national regulators and many other partners to improve the accessibility, availability and affordability of drugs and medical products.

We need to step up these efforts to fill the gaps and overcome the limitations of current models of research and development incentives.

WHO welcomes the EU pharmaceutical strategy for Europe and the “EU4Health program” which will finance strategies aimed at reducing the fragmentation and vulnerability of supply chains for medical products by Europe.

Second, a consistent nomenclature.

WHO welcomes the European initiative for a nomenclature for medical devices that is transparent and accessible to all users in all Member States. This is one of the initiatives envisaged within the framework of the discussions on a global nomenclature.

Third, transparent pricing.

Increasing transparency is a key strategy to promote competition and expand access to generic and biosimilar medicines, improve and coordinate pricing and purchasing policies across borders, and ensure accessibility.

Creating an environment for a competitive and efficient European pharmaceutical industry is of strategic interest for public health, not just for Europe but globally, to stabilize global supply chains and deliver quality-assured products.

The pandemic has shown that health is not a luxury for the few, but a human right and the foundation of social, economic and political stability.

If so, we must seize this moment to work for a world in which all people have access to all the medicines and medical products they need, where and when they need them.

I thank you.

SOURCE World Health Organization (WHO)

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