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Guaranteeing universal access to medicine and stregthening pharmaceutical innovation: are these goals compatible?

Garantizar el acceso universal a medicamentos y fortalecer la innovación farmacéutica en el proceso, ¿son metas compatibles?

By Rodrigo Cáceres

The European Commission has presented a proposal to reform the pharmaceutical market and ensure access to quality medicines, broad coverage, and affordable prices for all citizens of the European Union. The proposal aims to prevent the loss of competitiveness in the European pharmaceutical industry and is based on three pillars: accessibility, availability, and affordability. In Latin America, equitable access to medicines remains a challenge, and it is essential to raise awareness of initiatives from other regions that can have a positive impact on universal health coverage.

For a healthcare system to meet its objectives and provide healthcare coverage to its citizens, equitable access to health services, technologies, medications, vaccines, and specific-use materials is required.

While several countries in Latin America have developed policies and declared universal health coverage for their citizens, access to medications often presents complexities such as availability within the healthcare system, regional coverage, and financing that is often privately funded, without insurance coverage or benefit packages.

After 20 years, with the effects of the pandemic and ongoing inflation continuing to affect the population, on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, the European Commission presented its proposal for regulatory reform that will guarantee access to affordable medicines for all Europeans, without harming and at the same time promoting competitiveness and innovation in the pharmaceutical sector.

The proposal for a “single market for medicines” aims to benefit more than 67 million people in all corners of the European bloc, with access to quality medicines, broad coverage, and affordable prices.

The challenge: to avoid distrust and loss of competitiveness in the European pharmaceutical industry, which generates over 235 billion euros in exports and is a significant contributor to European treasure.

The proposal encompasses various strategies, including increased protection of intellectual property and market-based on the fulfillment of objectives such as increased market coverage, research on rare diseases, availability of medicines for seasonal priorities, improvements in therapeutic indications, reduction of drug authorization deadlines, among others.

The new policies will seek a strategy based on three pillars: accessibility, availability, and affordability, allowing access to medicines that are currently unequally distributed.

For Latin America, the development of regional policies to promote agreements and incentives for pharmaceutical companies operating in the region remains a challenge, and it is important to raise awareness of initiatives from other regions that can have a significant impact on achieving the long-awaited universal health coverage and improving the quality of life in our region.

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