8 March 2017 - Statement of the European Union - HRC 34 - Panel on Access to Medicines

On 8 March 2017, the European Union (EU) delivered the following statement to the Human Rights Council's panel discussion on Access to Medicines. As the Human Right Council imposed a strict two minute limit on interventions, the EU was not able to raise the following two questions contained at the end of its intervention.

I have two questions for the Panel.

Could the panellists suggest further measures to promote a holistic approach to access to medicines?

How could the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including by industry, play a role in addressing the human rights challenges related to the question of access to medicines?

The entire statement is reproduced below.

EUROPEAN UNION
Permanent Delegation to the United Nations Office
and other international organisations in Geneva

UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
34th session

Panel Discussion on Access to medicines (Res. 32/15)
8 March 2017
EU Intervention
Mr. President,

I speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. We thank the panelists for their interesting and enlightening interventions.

We are committed to increasing access to quality and affordable medicines as one of the fundamental elements for the realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. We recognise that a balanced and strong, functioning and effective, intellectual property environment, that is in line with our international commitments, is important for supporting and promoting access to innovative, safe, effective and quality medicinal products in the European Union.

The current innovation model has delivered progress in public health, leading to new and improved treatments as well as extended life expectancy both in developed and least developed countries.

However, we recognize that challenges remain to be addressed, including the current high costs of innovative medicines and their implications for the accessibility of treatments and the sustainability of health systems in all regions, as well as the challenges attached to market failures in addressing specific public health needs.

The Health Ministers of the EU have agreed, for our countries, to explore obstacles for deploying existing methods and consider new solutions to address cases of market failure. In addition, the EU will prepare an evidence-based analysis of the impact of the incentives in EU legal instruments.

The UNSG High-Level Panel report on Access to Medicines acknowledges many reasons "why people do not get the healthcare they need, ranging from: under-resourced health systems, a lack of sufficiently qualified and skilled healthcare workers, inequalities between and within countries, exclusion, stigma, discrimination and exclusive marketing rights." Other important issues include global medicines shortages and stock-outs, lack of national regulatory and supply-chain infrastructure, falsified and substandard medicines, and a lack of new health technologies e.g. for neglected diseases.

We note that the mandate for today’s panel discussion, set out in resolution 32/15 was to consider “all relevant documents”. The panel’s concept note does not properly reflect this. We would thus have expected this panel discussion to include also references to the Joint WTO/WHO/WIPO Report and to the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property which are also relevant for today’s discussion. We favour a comprehensive, balanced approach. The challenge is to strike the right balance between the needs to promote and finance the research and development of new and better medicines for all, to ensure that medicines are accessible and affordable to those in need, to promote and protect human rights, and to guarantee the sustainability of health systems. We believe that these goals are not contradictory and must be pursued jointly.

We note the HLP Report and the subsequent message by the Secretary-General, encouraging "all stakeholders to chart a way forward in appropriate fora to ensure access to medicines and health technologies for all who need them, wherever they are". The High-Level Panel Report is a new element in the broader global discussion of a complex issue which is also addressed multilaterally at the WHO, WTO, WIPO, and OECD. We are ready to engage constructively, in cooperation with all partners, on the important issue of access to medicines.

I have two questions for the Panel.

Could the panellists suggest further measures to promote a holistic approach to access to medicines?

How could the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including by industry, play a role in addressing the human rights challenges related to the question of access to medicines?