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BRICS To Fight For Medicine As 'Human Right'

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Taking the fight for access to affordable medicines a step further, developing countries including India may join hands to propose a resolution on access to medicines at the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) this week.

The move is keenly watched by members of the developed block including the US and the EU as “access to medicines” as a human rights issue, without limiting the list of drugs to the “essential medicines”, may hurt the interests of the global multinational pharmaceutical corporations.

The development follows the recommendation given by Delhi-based legal activist Anand Grover, in his capacity as the Council’s Special Rapporteur. Grover, who took up this position in 2008, had submitted his report that "identifies and analyses challenges and good practices with respect to access to medicines in the context of the right-to-health framework" on May 27.

The special rapporteurs of UNHRC are independent experts appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The position is honorary and the expert is not a staff of the United Nations.

According to Geneva-based officials, Brazil, in its intervention on Grover’s report, stated that developing countries including India, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt and Thailand will take forward the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and introduce the draft resolution at the Council meeting. The draft resolution may request the States, the UN and other inter-governmental organisations to address the existing challenges with regard to access to medicines in the context of the right to health, and the ways to overcome those challenges.

Taking cue from Grover’s report, it is expected to use the key human rights framework on access to medicines, i. e. availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality to analyse the international and national determinants to access to medicines.

In the first section of the report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the international legal framework as it applies to access to medicines. In the second section, he identifies key determinants of access to medicines and discusses challenges and good practices with respect to each aspect. The key determinants identified in the report are: local production of medicines, price regulations, medicines lists, procurement, distribution, rational and appropriate use and quality of medicines.

The report wants the States to ensure transparency of data related to quality, safety and efficacy of medicines, including the mandatory publication of adverse data; increase budgetary support for national regulators and increase recruitment of inspectors at competitive salaries; improve South-South cooperation to conduct joint inspections of manufacturing facilities and share information and good practices; and avoid conflation of poor-quality medicines, a quality control issue, with counterfeit medicines, a trade issue.

The 23rd session of the Human Rights Council is taking place from 27 May to 14 June in Geneva and the draft resolution is expected to come up for consideration during the week.

joe(dot)mathew(at)abp(dot)in; joecmathew(at)gmail(dot)com