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Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on Access to Medicines
March 8, 2017

Intervention of the United States of America
Human Rights Council 34

Panel discussion on access to medicines
As Delivered by Robert Waller

Geneva, March 8, 2017

Thank you, Chair.

The United States believes achieving greater access to medicines, particularly to essential medicines, is a complex challenge.  We are committed to identifying practical ways to increase access to safe, effective, and affordable medicines around the world, and to support policies that drive development of new medicines, including promoting robust intellectual property rights protection and enforcement systems that provide a predictable environment in which to invest the billions of dollars necessary to bring life-saving drugs to market.

Regrettably, today’s panel  has failed to promote these goals as it focuses solely and inappropriately on advancing the recommendations of the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

The mandate of today’s panel was to “exchange views on good practices and key challenges relevant to access to medicines…taking into account all relevant reports.”  Unfortunately, the concept note for the panel and its composition suggest a focus on the HLP report that is inconsistent with what was agreed to in June last year.

As the United States and others have repeatedly made clear, including at the meeting of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board, the High-Level Panel operated under a flawed premise.  The HLP report inappropriately assumes an incoherence between access to medicines, intellectual property, and trade, and fails to consider critical barriers.  The Panel could not reach consensus on its key recommendations, with two of the Panelists – the two who had the most extensive experience in research and development – warning that the Report’s recommendations could result in serious negative unintended consequences for R&D.  Consequently, today’s panel should not be used as a basis for the Human Rights Council to further consider the HLP report or for other future work.

This panel’s narrow focus on the HLP deprives states of the opportunity to consider the reasons why essential medicines that are off-patent are not reaching patients in some countries.  Inappropriate tax and tariff policies, insufficient health systems, inadequate access to financing, or lack of essential procurement systems  can all serve as internal barriers.  There is nothing preventing Member States from taking immediate domestic action to reduce these barriers.

In closing, we request that the High Commissioner’s summary report on today’s panel discussion reflect the concerns we have expressed, including the concern that the panel’s narrow focus on the HLP is inconsistent with the mandate in HRC resolution 32/15.  We look forward to continue working with our partners to address this and other critical issues facing our countries. Thank you