Pills are prepared separately for each patient by a nurse before being distributed to patients at the Zhytomyr Regional TB Dispensary.
Feature story |

Transforming Tomorrow into Today: Imperatives for Change in the Future of Access

3 min

Despite some significant achievements in getting treatments to people who need them, the situation remains extremely dire. The access-to-medicines problem is still deep and pervasive, spreading and worsening across the globe. Too many people still suffer and die each day because they cannot get the drugs, vaccines or testing they need to survive.

Together we must drastically step up efforts and adapt strategies and tactics to keep up with – and ultimately overcome – the complex challenges limiting people’s access to lifesaving health tools. Across the international community, all of us must demand change, political will, and action to ensure access for all.

We need change now. 

We Must:

Seize the global momentum for change

We must channel the current global outrage around expensive medicines and unnecessary deaths, build alliances with the growing numbers of people demanding change, and translate the successes from the past with present opportunities into sustainable, systemic change that ensures access.

Put an end to pharma’s myths on high prices

Pharmaceutical corporations must be transparent and accountable in terms of their product price setting, research and development (R&D) costs, and research data. We must once and for all lay to rest the false narrative that medicines must be expensive.

Stop patent abuse

The pharma industry should no longer be given new frivolous patents on existing drugs, extending their monopolies and delaying access to affordable generic medicines.

In March 2017, organisations from 17 European countries filed an opposition to Gilead Science's patent on the highly effective hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. Photograph by Peter Bauza
In March 2017, organisations from 17 European countries filed an opposition to Gilead Science's patent on the highly effective hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. Photograph by Peter Bauza

Encourage and protect countries taking action for access

Countries wishing to exercise their legal right to put people before patents – like India, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, and others – must be allowed to produce or obtain affordable versions of lifesaving drugs and vaccines, without being bullied by pharma corporations or other countries.

Promote and organize R&D as a collective responsibility

Medical innovation must be fostered as a ‘social contract’ of an open, collective effort between the public and private sectors, based on people’s health needs, not on profit potential, and delivering beneficial public health tools, not luxury commodities. We must embrace open, collaborative R&D in the public interest, in which knowledge and new treatments are shared, not privatized. Medical R&D must address people’s health needs no matter where they live and must address priority areas of public health concern like drug-resistant TB, antibiotic resistance, outbreak diseases, and neglected diseases.

Challenge the commercialization of medical  research

The economic model behind the development and distribution of medicines and other essential health technologies must change. Profit-maximising business strategies continue to fail sick people and are utterly unsuited to delivering the medicines we need in an affordable way. We should join forces with alternative health economics thinkers to explore sustainable ways forward that center on people’s needs.

Phumeza Tisile, drug resistant TB survivor.

Demand justice, not charity

Pharmaceutical corporations and wealthy country governments serving their interests should not be allowed to decide if and when lifesaving drugs, vaccines and diagnostics are affordable or available to the people who need them. It is a collective public responsibility to ensure people’s right to health and equitable access are put first.