WHA70: Statement of Portugal on the Global shortage of, and access to medicines and vaccines

Portugal delivered the following statement at the 70th World Health Assembly on agenda item, 13.3 - Global shortage of, and access to medicines and vaccines.

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In relation to the Report of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines (UNHLP), the delegation of Portugal quoted the intervention delivered by the Portuguese Minister of Health, Professor Campos Fernandes at the plenary of the 70th World Health Assembly.

We welcome the contribution provided in this regard by the report of the High-Level Panel of the UNSG on Access to Medicines and we hope that as a result, the issue of access to medicines can continue to be discussed at the highest level in the United Nations, which constitutes, in our view, the only way of ensuring that this issue is addressed in a cross-cutting and coherent way.

We have high expectations on the contribution that WHO can make to this debate, in particular in exploring how greater transparency can be pursued in determining the costs of research and development of new medicines and how they are reflected in the final price of medicines”.

Portugal's intervention is reproduced in full below.

70th Session of the World Health Assembly
Item 13.3 – Global shortage of, and access to medicines and vaccines

25 May 2017

Statement by Portugal

Madam President,

Portugal welcomes the report presented by WHO under this agenda item.

Access to quality and affordable medical products to all is a fundamental element for the realization of the human right to health and of universal health coverage. Portugal is deeply committed to the realization of this human right, without discrimination, including by increasing access to medicines through the adoption of a human rights-based approach.

All regions of the world face, at different levels, insufficient access to medical products. In recent times, the dramatic increase of prices of new and innovative medicines made them unaffordable to large segments of the population also in rich countries, while threatening the sustainability of health care systems. In too many countries, prices of new medicines (to treat Hepatitis C and cancer, for instance) are particularly shocking.

The OECD itself acknowledged recently that Governments need to further work with the industry and regulators, to ensure that the development and use of new health technologies is accompanied by the delivery of more affordable and value for money treatments.

Madam President,

Allow me to quote the following extract from the statement delivered by the Portuguese Minister of Health, Professor Campos Fernandes earlier this week at the plenary of this World Health Assembly:

“The sustainability of health systems is a constant concern and objective. However, it has been threatened by the exorbitant prices of some innovative medicines that make them inaccessible to large segments of the population.

We welcome the contribution provided in this regard by the report of the High-Level Panel of the UNSG on Access to Medicines and we hope that as a result, the issue of access to medicines can continue to be discussed at the highest level in the United Nations, which constitutes, in our view, the only way of ensuring that this issue is addressed in a cross-cutting and coherent way.

We have high expectations on the contribution that WHO can make to this debate, in particular in exploring how greater transparency can be pursued in determining the costs of research and development of new medicines and how they are reflected in the final price of medicines”.

Madam President,

Access to medicines is a human rights issue as well as a public health issue. We need to work together in order to ensure policy consistency between all relevant interests at stake, so that we will leave no one behind. Those interests are not necessarily contradictory and must be pursued jointly and in a balanced manner. Portugal is doing its part. As an example, earlier this month, the Portuguese Minister of Health, together with other five Health Ministers of EU MS’s signed the Valetta Declaration in which those six countries agreed to cooperate in full trust, loyalty, solidarity and transparency for better access to medicines.

Thank you.