The EU can take the lead for affordability, openness and accessibility

Below is a short summary of David Hammerstein’s talk at the event “Health for sale”, The Hague, February 6th, 2016

The present model of biomedical innovation is morally unacceptable because it cannot be universalized to permit affordable, effective and safe health treatments for the vast majority of the world´s population. The principles of a new model that considers health a common good must be based on transparency, scientific openness and sharing, affordability and guarantees for a much greater social return on public expenditures.

These principles can be advanced by a general reconsideration of patent monopolies as the main drivers of innovation, the promotion of new, health-needs-oriented R&D incentives and the promotion of a new fair social contract between citizens, patients, public and private health insurers and industry. The main indicators of success of biomedical innovation must be universal access, efficacy, safety and affordability not the level of profits for shareholders (Big pharma is among the industrial sectors with the highest level of profits).

Enormous profits based on high prices that exclude most of the world´s population cannot be the source of innovation. On the contrary, much greater investment and sharing in the fields of global public health and environment health is a moral obligation for the common good and one of the most responsible ways of responding to a world full of growing existential dangers fueled by stark inequality, climate change and national/ethnic conflicts.

The EU can take the lead for positive change. EU policymakers are in the position to take some concrete steps such as:

• pilot programmes on alternative R & D models,

• the expansion of the “Horizon Prizes” within the Horizon 2020 programme for medical innovation inducement with conditions for of IPR rights,

• a socially-responsible licensing policy to assure affordability when EU R&D funding is involved,

• the consolidation of clinical trial transparency, open access and open data measures,

• the reform of the Innovative Medicines Initiative to assure the health-driven defense of the public interest and democratic plurality,

• the development of an EU public platform for the development of affordable and universally accessible new generation of antibiotics to be able to bring them out as generics from the first day,

• EU support for a global R and D Treaty at the World Health Organization that promotes new socially-responsible models of innovation and • the withdrawal of any EU bilateral trade proposal that could harm affordability, transparency and accessibility to medicines.

• Other EU measures could include a European “sunshine act” to prevent conflicts of interests between pharma and health professionals, a mandatory transparency regulation to reveal pharmaceutical R & D costs and financing, the promotion of joint procurement between EU states and greater political flexibility (limiting data exclusivity rules) to permit compulsory licensing of very expensive, life-saving medicines in EU member states.

In general, there is an imperative for much greater North-South transfer of health-related technology and knowledge. Tighter enclosures and higher walls around our opulent, satisfied Europe could very well be a recipe for disaster in the future. Solidarity, openness and sharing on all fronts is a morally clear path for mitigating suffering, exclusion and inequality that might very will impact us all sooner than we think.

Posted in Data, Europe, IP, knowledge commons, TTIP
  • “It is he who erects fences around his property who destroys civilization; the natural civilization of Man”

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau