Pricing for prescription drugs has been a contentious issue around the world as payers and patients don’t understand the cause of high drug prices and are struggling with patient access. Particularly in middle- and low-income countries, affordability of drugs in cancer has become an important part of a dialogue between the World Health Organization, governments, non-governmental organizations and patient advocates. The WHO has organized several meetings to explore and drive resolutions for drug-pricing-related issues for patented and generic drugs.
This year’s Fair Pricing Forum was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 11-13. It was an invitation-only meeting between government representatives, NGOs, academics, experts and the pharmaceutical industry to address concerns regarding fair pricing and patient access to pharmaceuticals, particularly related to middle- and low-income countries. The meeting was a follow-up from the first Fair Pricing Forum two years ago in Amsterdam.
Patient affordability was the central theme of the discussions. How does pharmaceutical innovation help us if it stays on the shelf since a large proportion of patients can’t afford to buy it? The universal right to healthcare was a strong underlying principle of the discussion. High drug prices are seen as abusive, particularly fed by feelings that the industry is hiding behind the need for innovation and resistance to provide transparency of prices and R&D development costs.
Three of my recently published articles provide more perspective on the meeting and its impact:
- “The WHO Fair Pricing Forum” (PharmExec): In this article, I describe the meeting and the most important discussion topics.
- "Where Was Differential Pricing at the WHO Fair Pricing Forum?” (STAT): In this opinion piece, I question why differential pricing was omitted from the forum’s formal agenda.
- "WHO Fair Pricing Forum Focuses on Biosimilar Access in Middle- and Low-Income Countries" (Center for Biosimilars): Here, I focus on challenges related to biosimilars uptake in middle- and low-income countries.
Value and affordability are central themes for prescription drugs worldwide. The need to address the issues in middle- and low-income countries not only adds an additional geographic focus but also makes finding durable solutions both more complex and more urgent. It’s critical that the pharmaceutical industry is actively partnering with governments, NGOs and patient advocacy groups to make meaningful progress in resolving the issues.