CDC FOIA shows US, WHO opposed request to discuss UNSG’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines Report at EB

Email records and memoranda released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in response to a Knowledge Ecology International Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States government opposed including India’s proposed agenda item on the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines for discussion at the 140th WHO Executive Board meeting.

The full set of documents, which was released to KEI without redaction, are available here:

The 11 member states of the South East Asia Region — Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste — as well as Brazil, Iran, and South Africa supported the inclusion of the agenda item.

The agenda item, which was submitted for consideration of the Executive Board prior to the release of the full high-level panel report, would have focused on the report in the context of the “constitutional mandate of WHO on health R&D and access and its central role in coordinating global efforts for the realization of health related Sustainable Development Goals,” according to an explanatory memoranda released with the records.

CDC’s records include a variety of documents, including internal talking points documents, memoranda, and email conversations that describe conversations within the WHO.

A detailed memorandum, dated September 28, 2016, set out U.S. positions and talking points on the dozens of topics that were proposed to be on the agenda for the January 2017 EB meeting, which were discussed on the same day in a conference call with members of the Executive Board. The memo was addressed to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC Director and Vice-Chairman of the WHO EB, from the office of Ambassador Jimmy Kolker, and was written by Rachel Wood and reviewed by Peter Mamacos.

To: Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director
From: Jimmy Kolker, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, OGA
Drafted by: Rachel Wood
Reviewed by: Peter Mamacos, Director of Multilateral Relations
Subject: USG priorities for WHO Executive Board (EB) Bureau call
Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2016

<snip>

8.9 Access to medicines (oppose proposal by India): The USG should be on the record opposing this proposal from India that seeks to take forward recommendations from in the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines’ report, which was released in September. We have serious concerns about the narrow mandate of the Panel and its recommendations, and share the concern expressed by the two Panelists who come from the research community that warned of unintended negative consequences of the recommendations.

<snip>

8.9 Access to medicines (India)

  • US. position: oppose; Intervention: required
  • Issue: (see background on USG priorities) The U.S. should be on record opposing inclusion of this item to take forward the recommendations of the UN High Level Panel. We are concerned the recommendations are likely to have unintended negative consequences.
  • Talking point: USG and other experts involved in biomedical research (including the only two Panel members from the research community) believe the Panel’s recommendations are likely to result in unintended negative consequences for biomedical research.
  • The High Level Panel report lacks a clear path forward and does not provide a useful framework upon which WHO or Member States can build.

On September 30, 2016, Rachel Wood wrote an email to Joel Stanojevich and Peter Mamacos, advising them that “Of our priority items . . . WHO suggested removing India’s access to medicines proposal, so Dr. Frieden didn’t need to.”

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