Second World Conference on Access to Medical Products - Achieving the SDGs 2030

9 October 2018, New Delhi, India

Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Shri J P Nadda; Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State; Ms Anupriya Patel, Minister of State; distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I congratulate the Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for hosting this second World Conference on Access to Medical Products, which follows last year’s groundbreaking event.

Your commitment is appreciated. So too is that of partner ministries and India’s broader dedication to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

To achieve SDG 3, the health goal, making safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medical products accessible to all is imperative.

That is a critical point each of us should reflect on as we begin this Conference.

It is precisely why WHO has intensified its collaboration with key organizations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization, as WHO’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property outlines.

This collaboration helps promote better understanding of the linkages between public health and intellectual property policies. It also enhances mutual support of their implementation.

At the global level, making this happen is crucial to helping fulfill a World Health Assembly decision on ‘Addressing the global shortage of, and access to, medicines and vaccines’. WHO is currently developing a roadmap that will strengthen the coordination of research and development in this area.

Notably, this issue was brought up at the Seventy-first session of our Regional Committee, where the Delhi Declaration was unanimously adopted. The Declaration emphasizes the critical importance of countries improving access to essential medical products as a matter of priority.

In acknowledging the significance of these initiatives, I want to highlight a second imperative: the need for efficient regulatory processes. Such regulatory processes are fundamental to guaranteeing all medical products – from medicines and diagnostics to medical devices and vaccines – are safe to use.

To enhance regulation, promote information-sharing and ensure all medical products meet quality standards, our Region has developed a novel initiative – the South-East Asia Regulatory Network, or SEARN.

SEARN has five working groups. The first provides quality assurance and standards for medical products, including labs. The second attends to regulatory practices, including good manufacturing, storage and distribution practices. The third works on medical product vigilance, for example by documenting adverse event reporting. The fourth concentrates on information-sharing, including on medical product pricing. And the fifth attends specifically to medical devices and diagnostics.

WHO South-East Asia is proud to support this laudable initiative.

I now come to my third point: We must be clear that any discussion of access to medical products must include a discussion of financial protection.

Nearly 65 million people across our Region are impoverished because of out-of-pocket spending on health. The bulk of that spending is on medicines. Together we must explore innovative strategies to drive down this spending and protect all people from the catastrophic costs treatment can result in.

With that in mind, I appreciate India’s recent initiatives to do exactly that at the hospital level via its PMJAY initiative and, more generally, to making quality generic drugs and vaccines available to countries and people who would otherwise have to do without. It is no surprise that India continues to show leadership in this area, not only through this Conference, but also by hosting the Global Forum on Medical Devices later this year.

I likewise commend India for re-benchmarking the National Regulatory Authority with WHO’s support in February 2017. The initiative has since strengthened India’s regulatory capacity and, by extension, the ability for people in India and beyond to gain access to quality, often life-saving vaccines.

The path to making safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medical products accessible to all is neither straightforward nor uniform. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are core principles we must embed in our processes and outputs to achieve the outcomes we want and need to see.

In addition to the principles already outlined, and which are elaborated on in SDG 3, we must consider the need for action to be carried out as part of a concerted and simultaneous process. That is the only way we will make the progress needed to achieve our Flagship Priority. It is also the only way we will reach our 2030 targets and fulfill the broader Sustainable Development Agenda.

To that end I am certain this second World Conference on Access to Medical Products will yield actionable results, and I look forward to what is sure to be three days of immensely valuable dialogue and discussion.

Thank you very much.