UN calls for affordable health technologies


The United Nations (UN) has called on countries to adopt and implement strategies to make expensive new health technologies affordable for health systems and patients.

UN Malawi resident coordinator ad interim Florence Role said this during the three-day High-Level Meeting led by the government of Malawi and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo), held in Lilongwe from Wednesday last week.

“We still have a long way to go to meet the Universal Health Coverage target UN member States committed to under Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 3,” said Rolle.

Rolle: We still have a long way to go

In his opening remarks, President Peter Mutharika affirmed his administration’s commitment to improving access to medicines and health technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We want to promote ways of ensuring affordable essential medicines. This is our sacred duty,” said Mutharika. “We all share the obligation to make Africa a healthy continent. The progress of our nations depends on having healthy and productive citizens.”

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) has developed flexibilities in intellectual property law. Various health-related policy options are available to WTO members to increase access to medicines and health technologies to promote public health objectives, especially for Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Last year, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines recommended that WTO members must make full use of the flexibilities included in the WTO TRIPS Agreement to promote access to medicines and health technologies when necessary.

Recognising that 13 of the 19 Aripo member States are LDCs, participants concluded that both national and Aripo policies, statutes and practices should be strengthened to improve coherence between national public health objectives and other regional policy frameworks and legislations.

Along with the old enemies of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases are putting untenable pressure on health systems across the sub-Saharan region.

At the consultation, participants prepared the Lilongwe Communiqué, calling for solidarity and action to improve policy coherence to increase access to affordable medicines and vaccines, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.

Aripo director general Fernando Dos Santos said the organisation aims to promote harmonisation of intellectual property laws appropriate to the needs of member States. n

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