Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation

Access to medicines issues

Pharmaceutical companies are failing a duty of care. Governments offer pharmaceutical companies exclusivity rights to incentivise the development of medicines, because medical innovation is in the public interest. Pharmaceutical companies, in return, have a duty of care to protect this public interest, and not to abuse market exclusivities by setting prices that put medicines out of reach, or that displace other health care services.

Missing medicines and high prices

Pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of laws that are meant to incentivise the creation of new, needed medicines to instead ratchet up prices to unsustainable levels. Often this is done without any new innovation at all. Companies can obtain added market protections for old drugs with new indications, or monopolise supply chains to prevent patients accessing lower cost versions of the same medicine. The Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation considers this type of action a betrayal of the public trust. When pharmaceutical companies accept the incentives offered by national governments to serve public health, they have a duty to serve public health – not only line their pockets. Worse, the focus on high prices over health needs often leads to a variety of sub-optimal public health outcomes, including: failing to incentivise the creation of needed medicines in the first place and charging expensive prices for patients and health systems. Critical issues are listed below, divided loosely into three broad categories. 

No product

Medicines development is largely incentivised by profits. This means products which are important for public health but not profitable – such as products for poor and vulnerable populations or treatments for anti-microbial resistant infections – are often not developed.

Access Challenges

Even where products are available, they are often not accessible or affordable for those that need them. There are many reasons for access problems, including monopolies that limit competition, high prices, weak health infrastructure or regulatory barriers.

Poor Enabling Environment

The legal and policy environments in which companies operate too often serve industry rather than the public interest. Poorly applied competition law, lack of political will, and other issues can create situations that do not enable innovation and access to medicines.

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