Fragile health systems in Europe and developing countries simply can’t afford skyrocketing medicine prices. Ebola crisis and high price of new hepatitis C and cancer medicines highlight urgent need to rethink innovation policies.
Today, more than two billion people across the world lack access to affordable medicines. The European trade agenda keeps the price of new pharmaceutical products high by imposing stringent intellectual property (IP) protection, while including harmful investment measures in free trade deals that it negotiates with developing countries such as India or Thailand. This mirrors the US trade agenda that has prevailed over the last two decades.
Europe’s research and development (R&D) model, which, like the US, relies on strict IP rights, favours drug firms over the needs of people living in developing countries. The pharmaceutical industry spends more than €40 million every year to influence EU policies, employing around 220 lobbyists.
“The absence of a widely accessible Ebola treatment and the prohibitively high price of new hepatitis C and cancer medicines should spark an urgent rethink on trade and R&D policies. Innovation must serve people’s needs and not those of the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry, as it is now. Fragile health systems in Europe and developing countries simply can’t afford skyrocketing medicine prices,” said Aliénor Devalière, HAI Europe’s policy advisor.
With changeover in the EU Institutions, there is an excellent opportunity to correct the EU’s trade and innovation agenda. Members of the new European Parliament and EU governments must ensure that the incoming European Commission:
Defends a trade and R&D model that is coherent with its development cooperation and public health objectives. As a first step, the EU should ensure that the TTIP agreement with the US does not further expand monopoly protection and jeopardise access to medicines in Europe and beyond.
Explore new pharmaceutical innovation models that are based on sharing knowledge, rather than further protecting IP rights.