KEI Comments to DHHS on WHA 69 re CEWG, Nocommunicable Diseases

Today the Department of Health and Human Services held their annual WHA listening session. This year HHS sent an email the day prior announcing that the usual 3 minute allotment would be cut in half to 90 seconds. This decision caused several NGOs to not attend.

In addition to specific comments regarding the CEWG, KEI voiced an objection to the dramatic reduction in speaking time. Ambassador Kolker interrupted KEI at this point, prior to the two specific points regarding CEWG, to note with some aggravation that they had recently had a lengthy meeting in Geneva with KEI (true but beside the point), and requesting that KEI get on with the substantive comments.

Our comments are reprinted below.

Agenda Item 16.2 Follow-up to the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development

Good morning. I am Andrew Goldman, speaking on behalf of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI).

We object to the dramatic reduction of time allotted for these listening sessions. We know that powerful institutions like the drug companies and the Gates Foundation are given ample opportunity to influence U.S. policy at the WHO. To cut the presentations to 90 seconds is an unwelcome statement about the extent to which the administration is actually listening.

Our two main points about the CEWG are as follows.

  • The WHO should convene a meeting to consider the incentives that would induce member states to fund medical R&D as a public goods.
  • The R&D Observatory should collect and publish data on R&D costs, as well as the text and/or the terms of licenses on publicly funded R&D

Agenda Item 17. Progress reports: Noncommunicable diseases

The report should emphasize the fact that prices for cancer drugs are completely out of control, and it is impossible to have “access to medicine for all” unless governments can effectively end monopolies when prices are too high.

More importantly, it is now time to implement delinkage of drug prices from R&D financing, for cancer drugs. In 2009 we noted that cancer drug prices exceeded $50,000 for a year of treatment in some cases. Soon this number became $100,000. By last year it was $150,000, and now it is approaching $175,000 for new drugs. These prices lead to restrictions on access, and are killing patients.

Note that Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug developed at UCLA on grants from the US Army and the NIH has a price tag, for Medicare, of $294.64 per DAY! And that the high price of this drug has lead to restrictive formularies, and high co-payments for Medicare patients. And things are only worse for patients with private insurance.

The WHO should hold a meeting on the proposal for a cancer prize fund, to implement the delinkage of R&D costs from cancer drug prices.