Can we afford the Current Model of Medical Innovation?
Towards New Models of Innovation
Speech Eva Joly
I am very pleased to be here this morning to address such an important issue: global access to essential medicines. I am also very pleased to see that such an important topic attracts so many people!
On the eight Millennium Development Goals set out in 2000, three are directly linked to improvements in the health sector. After more than 10 years and after the high level conference this fall, the health situation of millions of people is still alarming, although some small improvements have been made. The economic and financial crisis has hit the poorest the hardest, making us fear for the worst. The crisis might undermine the modest progress made in the past years.
The economic crisis in developing countries comes in addition to the crisis related to medicines that they have been facing for years: one related to access to medicines, the other related to innovation.
On one hand, treatments are often too expensive for the poor. In 2010 we should expect that everyone with HIV/AIDS receives the medicines they need. Unfortunately this is not true. Despite a tenfold increase in the anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS in the last 5 years, less than 10% of people living with HIV/AIDS are access to anti-retroviral treatment. (oxfam)
On the other hand, endemic pathologies in poor countries are neglected by the pharmaceutical industry having no financial interest in it. This is a vicious circle: Markets in developing countries are not solvent; pharmaceutical companies cannot expect any profit there, no research is made and thus no new innovation on diseases hitting millions of people. As a consequence, Malaria still kills one child in the world every 30 seconds.
The problem with access to medicines in developing countries is far from being new. What’s new is that today, the extremely high costs of medicines has not only a dramatic impact on the people of developing countries. It also affects the economic viability of public health systems in the developed countries.
The financial and economic crisis has amplified inequalities and has turned – a basic right – health – into a luxury item – even in developed countries.
Several European countries have already been constrained to reducing public health system expenditures. Among measures aiming at cutting its debt, Greece recently cut the price of medicines by 21,5%. Spain decided last May to decrease the prices of patented prescription drugs by 23%. (The Spanish government expects to save roughly 1.3 billion euros. In a country with a pharmaceutical bill of 15 billion euros per year, this measure aims at strengthening the sustainability and balance of the Spanish national health system).
German parliament is also currently considering passing a law with the same objective.
The financial and economic crisis – although it has dramatic consequences – should be a starting point for the re-thinking of entirely new models of medical innovation.
This report is clear: our current model of medical innovation does not work. It not only failed to promote innovation but it also has become far too expensive for both developing and developed countries. The patent monopolies model which was supposed to be an incentive model generating innovation turned in to an obstacle. What was supposed to be its main advantage appeared to be its worst fault.
We need new models. And I have good news for you: the experts present here today have ideas and proposals on how to achieve it! This change of paradigm has already been quoted by the Council in its conclusions on the EUs role in Global Health in May 2010, as one of the solutions for the EU and the Member States to ensure that health innovation and intervention produces products and services that are accessible and affordable: it is exploring models that dissociate the cost of research and Development and the prices of medicines. In other words: de-link.
The solution is to break the bond between research financing and prices of medicines. To have two prices, one for Research & Development, another for the resulting medicines.
This system will allow undeveloped countries to achieve and go beyond the Millennium Development Goals 6 and developed countries to save their precious health systems.
Health is not a luxury, it’s a basic right.