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UN calls on pharma industry to make medicines more affordable

Published on 29/09/15 at 10:20am
Michel Sidibe
Michel Sidibé says the industry has a responsibility to ensure medicines are accessible to everybody

The United Nations AIDS agency, UNAIDS, has called on governments and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that medicines remain accessible to all.

World leaders and UN celebrity ambassadors gathered recently in New York to commit to the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ambitious public health targets to end the public health threat of aids over the next 15 years.

During the meeting the humanitarian organisation highlighted the dramatic increases in the prices of some medicines, which is causing concern about their continued availability to patients as well as about the wider effects on public health.

It comes after a furore prompted by a 50-fold increase in the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine), which increased from $13.50 to $750 after its acquisition by Turing Pharma. Daraprim is used to prevent opportunistic infections in people with HIV. Turing Pharma was forced to reverse its price hike after criticism from the industry and politicians.

UNAIDS cited generic competition, fostered by the use of intellectual property flexibilities, as a factor that has helped make prices for life-saving medicines much more affordable over the past 15 years, and allowed the massive scale-up of HIV treatment programmes. More than 15 million people are today accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicines, compared with fewer than 700,000 people in 2000.

Yet the efforts need to maintain, UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé told delegates: “As world leaders commit to new public health targets as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, governments and the private sector have a responsibility to ensure that medicines remain accessible to everybody.

"The AIDS response is proof that access to affordable and effective medicines can halt and reverse an epidemic. Everyone has the right to health, no matter where they are born or who they are,” added Mr Sidibé.

UNAIDS has set a new 90–90–90 treatment target for 2020 with the aim of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Countries around the world are adopting the 90–90–90 treatment target, whereby 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their HIV status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads.

Lilian Anekwe

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