Update on UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines hearings, Johannesburg, 16 & 17 March

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 — This week Johannesburg hosts the vitally important UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines during hearings on Wednesday 16 & Thursday 17 March.

While the High Level Panel is not open to media attendance but Thursday’s hearings in Johannesburg will be live-streamed, and audience members are invited to tweet questions using #UNSGAccessMeds. The hearings will be facilitated by Andrew Jack of the Financial Times.

The Johannesburg hearings follow on hearings held last week in London – watch video from the day.

Fix the Patent Laws representatives will be present at the hearings and interviews are available at the following times: Thursday 17 March, 11:00 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 14:30

TAC will lead a pro-health picket in support of South African health and trade authorities outside the hearings from 10:30 and hand over a signed open letter to the panel at 12:30.

Lotti Rutter of the TAC and the Fix the Patent Laws said, "The incoherence in policy on inventors’ rights in healthcare innovation and access to medicines is at tipping point. This inconherence means an intolerable denial of access through high medicine prices protected by patent walls. At the hearings we need the participants to admit that the system we have today is broken.

About the UN High Level Panel

The UN High-Level Panel has been charged by the UN Secretary General to “review and assess proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies.”

The hearings bring together experts from government, civil society, and the pharmaceutical industry to discuss and propose solutions to a growing incoherence in policy around access to medicines – between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health when it comes to health technologies.

Amongst others, the 16 members of the High Level Panel include former Botswana President Festus Mogae, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty, Australian jurist Hon. Michael Kirby and Director General of the Department of Health in South Africa Malebona Precious Matsoso (see the full list here http://www.unsgaccessmeds.org/new-page/).

Submissions to the UN High Level Panel

Prior to the hearings, industry, academia, governments, and civil society were invited to make submissions to the High Level Panel. A list of 176 submissions made to the High Level Panel has been published here http://www.unsgaccessmeds.org/list-of-contribution/.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition, which includes Doctors Without Borders and Treatment Action Campaign have made submissions to the hearings.

  1. Read MSF Access campaign’s submission: http://www.unsgaccessmeds.org/inbox/2016/2/27/grania-brigden-and-katy-athersuch
  2. Read TAC’s call on all developing countries to fully utilise all the safeguards available in the TRIPS agreement as clarified in the Doha Declaration to ensure public health is protected http://www.unsgaccessmeds.org/inbox/2016/2/28/lotti-rutter (Submission endorsed by AIDS Access Foundation, Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, FTA Watch, Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), ITPC-South Asia and  SECTION27)
  3. Read TAC’s proposal for linking intellectual property rights on pharmaceutical products to research mandates http://www.unsgaccessmeds.org/inbox/2016/2/27/marcus-low (Submission endorsed by Knowledge Ecology International and SECTION27)
  4. Read TAC’s call on the HLP to acknowledge the impact of trade pressure (through mechanisms like the United States 301 Watch List) on the use of TRIPS flexibilities and for the United Nations to do more to support developing countries in utilising TRIPS flexibilities https://highlevelpaneldevelopment.squarespace.com/inbox/2016/2/29/lotti-rutter


Kate & Angela

Note to editors: In terms of the Fix the Patent Laws campaign – and our ongoing efforts to influence the DTI – it was suggested in a recent meeting with the DST that there is a strong possibility that pharma, and US bilateral pressure, have delayed the ongoing IP policy process in South Africa and even watered down many of the proposed reforms that would ensure improved access to medicines. For this reason, we need to keep the pressure on.

Angela Makamure Press Officer at Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
Kate Ribet Media Liaison Officer at Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa