The cost of life: historical vote on transparency

Published 31st May 2019

After several days of negotiations, accompanied by an intense mobilization of activists and health associations, the resolution on the transparency for medicines, vaccines, and other health products was adopted at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

Today, when new treatments are launched in the market they are at prices in the tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds per year, and per person. This is especially true for treatments against cancer: just this week, a treatment was marketed in the United States at a price exceeding $2 million per person.

These prices threaten the right to access to care, and the bases for these prices are not made public.

A resolution on transparency for drug pricing was proposed by Italy, and quickly joined by several countries including Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and South Africa. It was voted on at the 72nd World Health Assembly on May, 28th 2019.

In the market of medicines, vaccines, and health technologies, opacity is the rule. Citizens, states, and health systems do not have access to basic information on the products, such as the investments in research and development, the share of public investment and the costs of clinical trials.

States negotiate prices in competition with each other, without having all the necessary information, including the prices of medicines negotiated by other countries.

By demanding greater transparency, this resolution rebalances the negotiating framework and facilitates cooperation between states. It will now be possible to better understand and be aware of the real value of new health products, and to move towards fairer prices, allowing access to the best care for all in sustainable health systems.

This resolution represents democratic progress, as it strengthens the right to information, and also progress for global public health. Transparency and cooperation between states will make it possible to move towards more affordable prices, no longer based on maximizing profits.

We celebrate this resolution as a first step towards a fairer system. The commitments made by this proposal must now be followed by concrete measures across Europe.

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