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by Tom Freeman
04 June 2019
Matt Hancock criticised for devaluing WHO medicines access agreement

Matt Hancock - PA wire

Matt Hancock criticised for devaluing WHO medicines access agreement

An international agreement to make medicines more affordable has been undermined by UK Health secretary Matt Hancock, it has emerged.

Last week a resolution at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making arm of the World Health Organisation, was passed aimed at reducing the cost of drugs across the world.

However the UK Government avoided backing the agreement, attempting to amend it to take out all references to “high prices”.

It is hoped the agreement will lead countries to share information on prices and clinical trials in an attempt to drive down the cost of new medicines.

The cost of clinical trials is frequently used as a reason for high drug prices by pharmaceutical companies.

Now former Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler, who now leads the Open Knowledge Foundation, has written to Hancock for clarification.

She said: “It is shameful that the UK Government is not willing to stand in solidarity with people most at risk of illness and death because of lack of access to medicines.

“We live in extraordinary times when new medical and technological advances are capable of saving millions of lives. They key to building equality for all is greater openness and transparency, and this philosophy must also be applied to healthcare.

“By sharing information on the price paid for medicines and the results of clinical trials, countries can work together to negotiate fair prices on equal terms with the aim of lowering drug costs. Quite simply, openness can save lives across the world.

“I urge Matt Hancock to strongly reconsider the UK’s position.”

Hancock, who is one of the contenders to replace Theresa May as prime minister, has also been lobbied by Médecins Sans Frontières and 66 NGOs working in sub-Saharan Africa on the issue.

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