Opening remarks by Dr. Ren Minghui (WHO) at MPP-WHO joint event

The Medicines Patent Pool, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, held an event Forecasts vs. Reality: Are we on Course? on Monday 27 March in Geneva, Switzerland. It focused on MPP-WHO joint forecasts for HIV medicines as well as the progress of hepatitis C treatment uptake.

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Please find below the opening remarks presented by Dr. Ren Minghui, Assistant Director General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization.

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Geneva, 27 March 2017

Dear Greg Perry, Executive Director of the Medicines Patent Pool

Distinguished participants and colleagues

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon. On the eve of the joint WHO/UNAIDS annual consultation with pharmaceutical companies on global demand forecasts for HIV and hepatitis medicines, I am pleased to be here for this pre-meeting organised by the Medicines Patent Pool in collaboration with WHO.

First of all, please allow me to thank Greg and his team for their efforts to increase access to HIV and hepatitis treatment. Since MPP was established in 2010, its goal of working on improving access to patented medicines has never changed. Originally focused on HIV medicines, it expanded in 2015 to include hepatitis C and TB medicines.

We appreciate MPP’s efforts to ensure that there are access-oriented licences for almost all new and current priority medicines for HIV and HCV, which is consistent with WHO’s objective to increase access to affordable medicines.

As you know, by June 2016, 18 million people with HIV had been put on ARV treatment – this represents 50% of the need. We acknowledge some progress has already been made to increase the affordability of first-line ARV treatment. However, second line and third line treatments cost over three times that of the first-line treatment. New drugs remain at a high price, which influences the uptake, even when they are recommended by WHO guidelines.

For hepatitis, the gap is more critical. One million people were reported to have received hepatitis C treatment in 2016. This number will continue to increase thanks to licensing agreements and local production in some countries, which have gone a long way to make these treatments more affordable. For example, the price of a three-month treatment in Egypt dropped from 900 USD in 2014 to less than 200 USD in 2016. But WHO is still concerned that there are substantial differences between countries in terms of what they are paying. Some middle-income countries, which bear the largest burden of hepatitis C, are still paying very high prices. 80% of people in need still face challenges in accessing these life-saving medicines. The price for a three-month treatment varies greatly, ranging from 9,400 USD in Brazil, to 79,900 USD in Romania.

MPP has made a significant contribution to accelerating the development of generic versions of these drugs and fixed-dose combinations. The introduction of fixed-dose combinations and generic versions of patented products under voluntary licenses has had a great impact on the scaling up of access to ARV treatments. Now we are also seeing increasing numbers of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection accessing these medicines at affordable prices, even in low- and middle-income countries.

We greatly value our collaboration with the MPP on demand forecasting. This work involves several partners who provide their technical advice and their data on medicine use and procurement planning.  I encourage the teams of WHO and MPP to expand this forecasting work to other areas, and in particular to hepatitis medicines. This is a new area that could benefit from such market shaping efforts and give a boost to national hepatitis treatment programmes to ensure they make progress towards the 2030 targets.

We are pleased to see in this room senior representatives of countries, pharmaceutical companies, and partner organizations. I encourage you to find ways to increase access to new drugs for HIV and hepatitis C so that treatment scale-up can be achieved at an affordable cost.

Thank you and I wish you a very successful meeting.

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