Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda has pressed for public health targets to be placed above trade deals. “Trade regimes are important, but must be seen as being subservient to the shared international public health goals,” he said at the two-day meeting of the Health Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), which concluded here on Friday.
Access to affordable medicines was yet again a key subject discussed at the meeting.
Referring to the World Health Organisation’s recent decision to drop the term “counterfeit” and use “falsified” instead to describe medicines of inferior quality, Mr. Nadda said he was “happy” that the WHO member-states arrived at a consensus on doing so as the word “counterfeit” usually referred to intellectual property rights violations.
On excluding any consideration of patents/trademark or other intellectual property issues while defining ‘falsified’ medical products, he said: “This, I believe, would go a long way towards promoting access to medicines, including through the full use of TRIPS flexibilities and defending our policy space against TRIPS-plus provisions and other measures that impede access to medicines. Such measures are necessary not only for the BRICS but for the entire world.”
For years, the BRICS Health Ministers have sought to share national experiences for the continued use of local production and compulsory licensing and to push back bilateral agreements forcing TRIPS-plus conditions so as to maintain access to affordable medicines.
“Affordable medicines are no longer a necessity of the poor countries alone. Regulatory capacities need to be strengthened to enforce appropriate quality standards and check the entry of spurious medicines. I am happy to note that at the BRICS workshop on drugs and medical devices in Goa in November 2016, the BRICS regulators agreed on a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) on regulatory collaboration with a view to improving the standards, certification and regulatory mechanisms for drugs and pharmaceuticals and promoting the availability of safe, efficacious, affordable and quality medicines,” he said.
The BRICS nations are considering signing an MoU to work on mutual recognition, sharing information and accelerating regulatory approvals in case of international and national health emergencies.