U.S. Disappointed Over Fundamentally Flawed Report of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 16, 2016

The United States is committed to working with international partners and identifying practical ways both to increase access to safe, effective, affordable, and life-saving medicines around the world, and to support policies that drive development of new medicines.

We are therefore deeply disappointed by the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which detracts from, rather than advances, those critical objectives.

As the United States made clear in its submission to the Panel in February 2016, the narrowly-focused mandate of the Panel was flawed and unlikely to lead to outcomes that adequately address this complex issue. The result includes conclusions that further this narrow perspective, raising fundamental questions regarding the legitimacy of those conclusions.

It is equally regrettable that the Panel worked under the presumption of “policy incoherence” between intellectual property rights, international trade liberalization, and human rights, while failing to properly recognize the important role that these systems play in incentivizing drug development and expanding access to medicines around the world. Intellectual property rights and trade are essential to medical innovation, which is fundamental to promoting global health.

We believe that we can both increase access to medicines and support innovation for the development of new and improved drugs for the world’s most critical health challenges. Indeed, there can be no access to drugs that have not been developed: support for innovation is essential. In this respect, we note the concerns raised by the several Panelists who have practical experience in managing medicine research and development that taking forward the recommendations of the Panel could have significant unintended negative consequences.

The Panel has now concluded its work and missed a key opportunity to provide practical observations regarding the complex issues surrounding access to medicines. The Report instead offers only a narrow perspective on a subset of those issues and articulates divisive policies that, if implemented, could severely undermine the innovation critical for the development of medicines and health technologies as well as private sector, university and government-funded research. This divisive approach does not provide the consensus necessary to proceed.

The United States supports the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. While we recognize the importance of access to medicine, we note that countries have a wide array of policies and actions that may be appropriate in promoting the progressive realization of the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and regret that this perspective is not reflected in the report. We are also concerned with the Panel’s mischaracterization of additional aspects of international human rights law.

Regrettably, the Report’s narrow focus has caused it to overlook the advancements made by innovative economies around the world. Robust intellectual property policies found in the United States and other economies support the development of innovative new treatments that save and improve lives around the world. The rules-based international trade system eliminates trade barriers that drive up costs of medicines for governments and patients. Efforts to fund drug development and patient treatment programs in developing countries, including those sponsored by the United States, have made significant contributions.

The United States Government remains committed to advancing access to existing and new medicines, including by supporting innovation through robust intellectual property protections and working with public and private partners to find new solutions to the world’s pressing public health challenges.