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Boylan backs Access to Medicines call

9 February, 2017 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has backed a campaign to put the needs of patients before the profit margins of shareholders by making life-saving and life-changing medicines affordable to those in desperate need, both in Ireland and across the world.

Speaking after the conference ‘Access to Medicines - Problems and Solutions’ in Trinity College, Dublin, Boylan called on those in positions of political power in Ireland and the European Union to devise a solution to “the broken prevailing Research & Development model that is costing lives across the world”.

Boylan, who has worked on the issue in the European Parliament, said:

“The current system of developing new life-saving drugs results in medicine prices as high as the market will bear. This causes the scandalous situation, to take just one example, in Ireland where a remarkable new treatment for cystic fibrosis sufferers, Orkambi, costs an eye-watering €160,000 per patient annually, a scandalous price that leaves health services in a hugely difficult position.

“The problem is that medical innovation is primarily incentivised by the guarantee that new products receive a 20-year patent-based monopoly, during which period the pharmaceutical companies can charge prices in absolute multiples of the relatively small amount it costs to produce these life-saving drugs.

“The reality today is that, due to this prevailing regime, large percentages of the world’s population cannot afford treatment. This is exacerbated in poorer nations with limited health budgets. In the past 10 years, however, there isn’t a country in the world where this situation hasn’t affected people desperately in need of treatment, as medicines are rationed to control costs.

“The current system also works to dissuade investment in areas where there is less profit to be made, such as in developing drugs to treat tuberculosis, which largely affects the world’s poor.

“Moreover, the secrecy involved in developing drugs among competing multinationals also creates inefficiencies, as research is often unwittingly and needlessly duplicated.

“In a report for the European Parliament, I called for Member States to support research and development (R&D) that focuses on the medical needs of all citizens, through ensuring that the structure for funding the research, development and commercialisation of new medicines is redirected towards the public good and to guarantee affordable and non-discriminatory access to medical advances,

“Therefore, I am today backing the demand by campaigners in this field for a new system of R&D funding, one that places the needs of patients before the profit margins of shareholders. The current system was originally intended as an incentive to aid research. It’s time to redress the balance in favour of patients by devising a new R&D model without these exploitative patents.” 

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