WHO SEAR nations commit to make essential medicines, diagnostics accessible to all

NEW DELHI, Sept 4: Countries in WHO’s South-East Asia Region, including India, Tuesday committed to make essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices “affordable and accessible to all” within the region and beyond.
Health ministers and officials of the 11-member countries taking part in the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee in New Delhi signed the ‘Delhi Declaration’ aimed at improving access to essential medical products.
“Access to safe, effective and affordable medical products vital to prevent sufferings and impoverishment resulting from high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare by families, especially the poor,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Medical products are a major component of out-of-pocket healthcare spending, which has pushed 65 million people into poverty in the South-East Asia region, the global health body said in a statement.
It pointed out that though significant efforts have been made by countries in recent years, challenges remain in providing the right medical products at the right time to those in need.
“To overcome challenges, the Delhi Declaration calls for allocation of sufficient financial resources by countries, as part of overall health financing strategies, to reduce out-of-pocket payments of families on essential medicines.
“The declaration calls for strengthening national policies, regulation, supply chain management, and capacity to leverage intellectual property and trade for public health, to improve access to medicines and vaccines,” the statement said.
The countries also committed to developing an “effective, transparent and participatory” mechanism for regional price negotiation and pooled procurement to ensure “accessibility and affordability” of essential medical products for life threatening and rare diseases.
The statement said the countries also committed to strengthen regulatory cooperation and collaboration to improve availability, quality and safety of essential medical products through the South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN).
“With the region emerging as a major manufacturer of essential medical products especially generic medicines, the nations also agreed to leverage this strength to improve “accessibility and affordability” both within the Region and beyond,” the statement added.
The countries also committed to developing an essential medical products list, in particular essential diagnostics list, for improved patient care, affordability of quality tests, and greater capacity to diagnose diseases during outbreaks and strengthened capabilities of national laboratories.
“The declaration also emphasized on more appropriate use of antibiotics; and innovation and investment in R&D including for neglected diseases, and affordable medical products.
“The Member countries agreed to ensure universal accessibility and affordability of essential medical products by 2030, as part of achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and the health related goals of SDG 2030 agenda,” the statement said.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda had inaugurated the conference on Monday where he had said India has fast-tracked initiatives for universal health coverage and his ministry is working “very hard” for effectively implementing the Ayushman Bharat scheme – the largest government-funded health scheme in the world. (PTI)