The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has pushed the National Health System against the ropes. The response to the health crisis was hindered by existing problems stemming from cuts in recent years, such as lack of infrastructure and job insecurity for healthcare professionals. Further obstacles were added to these existing issues, including the lack of ventilators, ICU collapse, and lack of protective equipment for healthcare professionals. However, the shortages did not only affect healthcare material. Shortage of medicines, a global problem and very common in all countries, has also been and will continue to be one of the principal worries for administrators and healthcare professionals that should be addressed as soon as possible.
Given this context, No Es Sano (It´s Not Healthy campaign) has sent the Government and political parties a document with a package of proposals for pharmaceutical policy that, already urgent before the crisis, can now no longer wait. All the proposals included respond to the pandemic and also suppose a new configuration of our public health system to defend the general interest and guarantee access to medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics without risking sustainability.
The document outlines, among its measures, that the vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 should be considered a public good, and have fair and affordable prices to ensure that all persons that require them can receive them. Likewise, their supply should be guaranteed. When vaccines or medicines are finally discovered for the new coronavirus, No Es Sano (It´s Not Healthy campaign) reiterates that its supply should not remain in the hands of one or two companies; instead, large scale production and distribution will be necessary.
Along these lines, the Government is requested to implement strategies for national and public production of medicines, healthcare materials, and diagnostics that will cover the needs of the population should this be necessary, leveraging the internal resources of the national health system and other public administration facilities.
In terms of intellectual property, the organizations that promote No Es Sano (It´s Not Healthy campaign) demand that, if access to new medicines were not guaranteed, Spain proposes the exceptional application, among other measures, of compulsory licenses —that consist in the temporal suspension of exclusivity of the patent owner so that the drug is produced as a generic—, a mechanism that is outlined in the TRIPS agreement (The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and can be applied in national emergencies or other situations of extreme urgency.
Similarly, the campaign reminds us of the existence of an enormous public investment in research that is being conducted on COVID-19. Therefore, it demands that the treatments and vaccines that stem from these projects do not have exclusive licenses—preventing the production by only one company—, have limited intellectual property rights, and their results are shared to accelerate the advances in the fight against this pandemic. In addition, the Government and other public institutions should ensure that the agreements that are established with the pharmaceutical companies for the development and production of potential drugs include clauses that guarantee that these treatments and vaccines will have affordable prices, and they will not speculate with these. It also requests the creation of independent research funds that ensure research is unrelated to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.
The document also outlines measures directed at the advancement of transparency in the processes of approval and funding of medicines; in the partnerships between the Government, public institutions, and the pharmaceutical industry; in the process of medicines price-setting; and clinical trials. For the latter, in particular, it calls for more information regarding their results as well as the calculation, that currently does not exist, of the public support provided by the hospitals when they provide their resources (installations, infrastructures, etc.) at the service of companies’ clinical trials.
Beyond pandemics and emergency situations, No Es Sano (It´s Not Healthy campaign) reiterates that these principals should be a guide for the construction of a new global, accessible, and sustainable model of research and development of medicines.
Read the 9 proposals here.