UN High-Level Panel Endorses Delinkage of R&D Costs from Prices of Drugs and Vaccines

The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines today issued its final report. The main report was accompanied by eleven pages of additional commentary, including ares of dissent from six panel members, plus additional explanations of the process.

The panel was asked to address the policy incoherence from granting monopolies for products on the one hand, and promoting access on the other:

In keeping with the commitment of United Nations Member States to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development, the High-Level Panel’s terms of reference called for it to “review and assess proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies,” among other things. In accordance with the principle of universality that underpins the 2030 Agenda and its aspiration to leave no one behind, the High-Level Panel views innovation and access to health technologies as a multi-dimensional and global problem that affects all countries.

Delinkage was mentioned 32 times in the report, including in recommendation 3.4(c), which reads:

Recommendation 3.4(c): Building on current discussions at the WHO, the United Nations Secretary-General should initiate a process for governments to negotiate global agreements on the coordination, financing and development of health technologies. This includes negotiations for a binding R&D Convention that delinks the costs of research and development from end prices to promote access to good health for all. Such a Convention should focus on public health needs, including but not limited to, innovation for neglected tropical diseases and antimicrobial resistance and must complement existing mechanisms.

There were tensions within the panel, which were evident in the additional commentary. Some members wanted the delinkage recommendations more closely tied to specific areas of market failure, such as neglected tropical diseases or antibiotic drugs, as if unequal and restricted access to expensive medicines is not itself a market failure to address.

Press and Reactions

Various civil society organizations and industry groups, as well as researchers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies, responded to the HLP report. Those responses, as well as press, are below.


Government Responses

Consumer & Health Group Statements

Industry Views


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