Colombia Ministry of Health Ignores Corporate Threats and Possible U.S. Interference, Improves Affordable Access to Cancer Treatment

June 20, 2016

Colombia Ministry of Health Ignores Corporate Threats and Possible U.S. Interference, Improves Affordable Access to Cancer Treatment

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: Last week, Colombian Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria issued Resolution 2475 of 2016, which will expand affordable access to imatinib, a lifesaving leukemia medication. Last month, Minister Gaviria appeared at the World Health Assembly and mentioned external pressures his country had faced over lowering the price of the medication (marketed in Colombia by Novartis under the brand name Glivec), currently double the typical income in Colombia.

Colombia’s public interest declaration is an important step toward curbing price abuse and expanding access to care. An expected price control will help Colombia attend to the needs of more people suffering from cancer and other diseases. Under Colombian administrative law, the resolution also opens the path to a compulsory license, which would authorize broad generic competition and be the most effective means of ensuring that prices continue to fall over time.

Representatives of the U.S. government and prescription corporations have worked to stop Colombia from taking action to protect its people’s health. These pressure tactics are reprehensible. We call on the Obama Administration to clarify its position and guarantee that the U.S. government will not interfere with or criticize Colombia’s efforts to promote access to medicines for all.

The single most important reason that medicine prices are so unaffordably high is the monopoly power of prescription corporations. It doesn’t have to be that way. We have the power to introduce competition and make medicines affordable for everyone.

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