To promote access to Covid-19 medicines, keep trade free and remove tax and regulatory obstacles

As member states of the World Health Organization gather next week in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, a global coalition of 29 think tanks today calls on governments to commit to simple reforms that will accelerate access to medicines, including those in the process of being developed for Covid-19.

Import tariffs, sales taxes and other levies are applied by many countries on medicines and vaccines, driving up prices and reducing availability. In many countries domestic taxes can make up 20-30% of the final price people pay for medicines, the declaration notes. These should be abolished permanently. 

Customs red tape should be reviewed to keep medicines crossing borders as quickly as possible, the declaration urges.

Patients wait of up to seven years for new treatments while waiting for national drug regulatory authorities to approve them, even if they have already been declared safe and efficacious by a stringent regulatory authority such as from the US food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

The declaration urges countries to reduce this duplication and speed medicines access by accepting the decisions of other regulatory authorities

Other measures recommended include asking governments to update their national formulary lists more frequently to take account of new medicines, and an end to protectionist measures that prioritise local companies, for example during procurement. Such “localised barriers to trade” reduce the number of medicines suppliers, leading to higher prices, fewer choices and shortages.

“As new treatments and vaccines for Covid-19 become available it is imperative they are made available globally as quickly as possible. Trade and regulatory barriers stand in the way in many countries. Fortunately, many of these barriers are easy to address so we urge countries to take action now” says the Consumer Choice Center. 

“Smoothing the path to Covid medicine access will also help patients who face long delays and tax-inflated medicine prices for all other diseases none of which have gone away.”

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Notes to editors:

To download the report, click here.

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