WHA Adopts Resolution On Hepatitis; Member States Concerned Over High Prices 22/05/2014 by Julia Fraser for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Member states today unanimously adopted a resolution on hepatitis drafted by the Executive Board meeting in January 2014, with two small amendments decided upon in informal intersessional consultations since the Board meeting. Recognising the huge burden of hepatitis, which is “now responsible for 1.4 million deaths every year,” the resolution urges member states “to develop multispectral national strategies for preventing, diagnosing, and treating viral hepatitis.” These include: strengthening immunisation strategies and adequate surveillance, increased screening, implementing preventative measures in healthcare settings, and ensuring patient access to medical technologies and medicines. The resolution also asks states to consider using the flexibilities endorsed in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to promote access to specific pharmaceutical products. The director general is also asked to provide necessary technical support to countries, including on the use of TRIPS flexibilities, and provide technical guidance on implementing cost-effective measures of prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment. Member states also took note of a report by the secretariat on “improving the health of patients with viral hepatitis.” The Bahamas spoke first to applaud the multisectoral approach adopted in the report, but added that “access to appropriate treatment for these patients must not be cost-prohibitive” to ensure sustainability of the programme. Guatemala expressed its wish to co-sponsor the resolution along with Georgia, South Korea, France and South Africa. Guatemala said the technical support provided under the resolution would be useful for many countries, and Afghanistan requested the development of human resources to raise public awareness in developing countries. Bangladesh stressed the importance of an adequate surveillance system to enable evidence-based policy decision-making. Burundi recommended that help be given to countries to collect data. The US also stressed the need for “robust surveillance” and supported technological support to be given to member states where requires. Several countries stressed that prevention needs to be core to hepatitis strategies including Lebanon and Argentina. Countries also highlighted the need to target at-risk groups including professional healthcare workers and intravenous drug users. Canada, France and Switzerland stressed the importance of prevention of transmission between injective drug users as key populations of risk in their countries. Iraq recommended that foreign-recruited healthcare workers be tested as a pre-requirement. And France called for systematic early screening and monitoring of infected patients. Japan, Spain and India also suggested that hepatitis should be incorporated in non-communicable diseases programmes. High Costs as a Barrier to treatment Burundi on behalf of the African region said it welcomes progress made on hepatitis B vaccination of newborns, but said it is concerned that hepatitis “remains an underestimated disease in most countries,” and hepatitis C is under-diagnosed in most African countries. It noted that new treatments are not available in African markets and the costs “exorbitant”, which limits access and treatment of people in the disease. Venezuela also remarked that the costs for the new hepatitis C drugs are “astronomical, worryingly so,” and condemned the fact that “economics and profit-making is being prioritised over improving peoples’ lives.” Iran explained that most of those infected with hepatitis C are infected drug users and prisoners who cannot afford care at these prices. And South Africa added that according to the report, if access to new treatments – now involving a simple 12 week oral regime – is improved, 90 percent of those infected with hepatitis C can be cured within the next 2 to 5 years. “Surely this assembly should support this,” it urged. Others who shared concerns for the high costs included Russia, the Republic of Congo, Maldives, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Egypt on behalf of the Mediterranean region, and Mongolia. Brazil noted the relevance of ongoing discussions on access to medicines including increasing competition, availability of safe and efficacious generics, and the use of TRIPS flexibilities where needed. And Lebanon added that regional offices could play an important role in providing assistance for price negotiations and pooled procurement of vaccines and drugs. Japan highlighted other issues important for access including adequate human resources, medical infrastructure and scientific evidence related to treatment. Response from Civil Society Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recommended the scale-up of treatment and strengthening of hepatitis B immunisations at birth. They also recommended generic competition and use of TRIPS flexibilities as a means to scale up production. Medicus Mundi asked the WHO to provide technical assistance to member states to “suitably amend their IP legislations, wherever necessary.” The World Hepatitis Alliance urged the assembly to advocate for inclusion of hepatitis in the post-2015 development agenda along with HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria, as hepatitis is often absent from global health initiatives. MSF, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, and the Universities Allied for Essential Medicines also called for new hepatitis C drugs to be included on the WHO’s essential medicines list. The secretariat said that the WHO prequalification programme would address the inclusion of new products. Julia Fraser is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch. She is currently training to be a solicitor and will start work at an international law firm in London in 2015. She has a BSc Honours in Biology from Edinburgh University where she developed an interest in public health related intellectual property issues. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Julia Fraser may be reached at email@example.com."WHA Adopts Resolution On Hepatitis; Member States Concerned Over High Prices" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.