On November 4, the GTIPA, Global Trade & Innovation Policy Alliance, a global coalition of 29 think tanks committed to promoting innovation at international level, of which the Institute for Competitiveness (I-Com) is a member, called on governments to commit to simple reforms that will accelerate access to medicines, including those in the process of being developed for Covid-19, and presented its Joint policy Recommendations “Overcoming obstacles to medicines access” to the WHO Assembly.
Indeed, as member States of the World Health Organization gather next week in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, a concerted and solid intervention is required to address the issue of free trade in the pharmaceutical field, even addressing taxation and the removal of regulatory obstacles.
The GTIPA calls for a permanent abolishment of domestic taxes on medicines final prices, which in some countries can make up 20-30% of the final price people pay for medicines. In order to do so, an international effort is required when it comes to the regulation of those levies applied by many countries on medicines and vaccines, e.g. import tariffs and sales taxes.
Also, it is essential to intervene to reduce the approval time by the national drug regulatory authorities to allow faster access to medicines for patients who need them. In this light, close collaboration with supranational regulatory authority such as the US food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Medicines Agency (EMA) is required.
Other measures recommended by the GTIPA include a call for governments to update their national formulary lists more frequently to take account of new medicines, and an end to protectionist measures that prioritise local companies, for example during procurement. Such “localised barriers to trade” reduce the number of medicines suppliers, leading to higher prices, fewer choices and shortages.
“As new treatments and vaccines for Covid-19 become available it is imperative they are made available globally as quickly as possible. Trade and regulatory barriers stand in the way in many countries. Fortunately, many of these barriers are easy to address so we urge countries to take action now” said the GTIPA spokesperson, which then added, referring to the current health crisis, “Smoothing the path to Covid medicine access will also help patients who face long delays and tax-inflated medicine prices for all other diseases none of which have gone away”.