Access to Medicines Intellectual Property Rights

Position of the European Union relating to World Health Organization negotiations on cancer

On 2nd May 2017, the European Commission responded to KEI Europe’s letter (31st March 2017) requesting the European Union to “support a WHO resolution on cancer that would provide the organization a mandate to conduct a feasibility study of creating a multi-country push and pull fund for cancer R&D predicated upon the principle of the delinkage of the costs of R&D from the price of health technologies.” KEI Europe submitted its letter along with 16 other groups including:

Access to Medicines Ireland
Alliance for Public Health
All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
Commons Network
Consumer Association the Quality of Life-EKPIZO
Dying for a Cure
Health Action International (HAI)
Health and Trade Network
Hepatitis Scotland
Just Treatment
Prescrire
Public Eye
Salud por Derecho
STOPAIDS
UAEM Europe
Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment (UACT)

The Commission’s response follows.

Dear Mr. Balasubramaniam,

    Thanks for your letter from 31st March 2017 in which you express your concern on the access for patients to cancer drugs in the European Union and in which you request the European Union to support a WHO resolution on cancer that would provide the organization a mandate to conduct a feasibility study of creating a multi-country push and pull fund for cancer R&D predicated upon the principle of the delinkage of the costs of R&D from the price of health technologies.
    High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Andriukaitis have asked to me to answer your letter on their behalf.
    There is a widespread agreement by Member States on the need for a WHO Cancer Resolution, to be adopted in May 2017, which will provide specific recommendations on cancer management to complement the Global Strategy on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020. The majority of the Resolution is accepted with great support.
    The resolution project acknowledges “the limitations in access to medicines, technology and human resources for cancer care in low-and middle-income countries.” It calls for members to take actions such as accelerating the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, ensure the highest possible coverage of vaccination against human papilloma virus (responsible for cervical cancer), and hepatitis B virus in line with the immunisation targets of the Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020.
    It also calls on members “to ensure the availability of the essential medicines and technologies to implement” evidence-based protocols for cancer management, “through appropriate financing arrangements, measures to overcome patent barriers, quality assurance mechanisms, more effective supply systems and measures to reduce prices.”
    It is true that the European Union, for example, noted its concern about the increasing prices of cancer treatments, and added the fact that the access issue is not limited to developing countries. The European Commission statement advocates for a robust and comprehensive Cancer Resolution that can help drive national progress, particularly in low- and middle-income countries that face the biggest challenges of a rapidly growing cancer burden. The Cancer Resolution will be a landmark document for cancer and should call for the development and implementation of national cancer plans, population-based cancer registries, a world cancer report and a well-trained oncology workforce.
    The efforts of the European Commission during the ongoing discussions of the WHO Cancer Resolution will be aimed at obtaining the most efficient approach to availability of cancer drugs eliminating, as much as possible, barriers creating unnecessary health inequalities.
    Best regards,
    On behalf of Stefan Schreck
    Monika Strey
    Assistant
    cid:602054908@16032012-12BC
    EUROPEAN COMMISSION
    Directorate-General for Health & Food Safety
    SANTE C1 – Health Programme and Chronic Diseases