FGEP discussed access to medicines at the ‘Encuentro Nacional de Equipos de Salud’

FGEP´s Executive Director, Mrs Lorena Di Giano, participated at the Debate Panel on Medicines’ Public Policies, along with representatives of the Ministry of Health, congressmen and sanitarians who have celebrated our Executive Director’s arguments for the defense of the national sanitary sovereignty

Buenos Aires, October 7, 2015 – FGEP led the discussion on medicines’ public policies at the National Health Team’s Meeting, an event that took place in Buenos Aires on October 1st, 2nd and 3rd and that was organized by the Ministry of Health.The meeting gathered more than 7,000 health workers, public officials and health activists who discussed with authorities, civil society organizations and the general public key topics on access to quality and affordable health in Argentina.

FGEP, organization integrated by people living with HIV and Hepatitis C, participated in the Discussion Panel on Medicines’ Public Policies. FGEP’s Executive Director, Mrs Lorena Di Giano, presented key arguments that were celebrated and quoted by other panel members, including the Vice Minister of Health Mr Federico Kaski, National deputy Mrs Carolina Gaillard, Mr Jorge Rachid, a well-known sanitarian, and members of the National Agency of Public Laboratories (ANLAP).

All of them agreed with the following arguments presented by Mrs Di Giano:

  • To focus the defense of national health sovereignty on the discussion of pharmaceutical patents as a barrier for the access to treatments, taking into account its negative impact on prices and the sustainability of the National AIDS Program.
  • To take into account that:
  • Argentina pays the highest prices for medicines in the region, and that this situation could be reversed if TRIPS health safeguards –such as compulsory licenses- are applied.
  • The role that new guidelines for the patentability examination of pharmaceutical patent applications play is key to prevent market abuses from pharmaceutical companies.
  • The risk that represent the new HIV treatment guidelines promoted by international organisms that seek a greater medicalization of the population.

Moments before, during the event’s opening ceremony, Argentina’s Minister of Health, Mr Daniel Gollán, spoke of government countersigned actions that have understood health as a right and not as a business: ‘we are not facing medicines with prices closely related to investment on research and development, we are dealing with financial speculation’. Declarations by Minister Gollán revealed how pharmaceutical companies use patents as means to set prices according to what countries can pay. Sofosbuvir and ATRIPLA, essential medicines to treat Hepatitis C and HIV, are clear examples of this. FGEP has filed oppositions to the patent applications of these medicines in Argentina, advocating for the inclusion of this issue in the national health agenda. The Ministry of Health has initiated actions on this problem with the aim of avoiding high prices imposed by pharmaceutical companies and empowering civil society in the joint struggle with the national government to reduce medicines’ prices.

Minister Gollán also highlighted the key role of FGEP in the adoption of public policies for improving access to medicines and publicly thanked the close collaboration with FGEP. As a gesture, FGEP´s board of directors was invited to participate in both the opening and closing ceremonies. Mr Gollán also mentioned that Argentina had led a historic event during the last UNASUR’s Ministries of Health Meeting , where medicines prices were negotiated through the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Strategic Fund which facilitated the purchase of ATRIPLA at a significant lower price.

Mrs Lorena Di Giano expressed: ‘We are living a historical moment in our country and in our organization. The fact that high-level authorities are assuming arguments that we have been advocating for years and that there is a firm political decision to prevent that private interests assault our public health budget is truly rewarding. This is also an improvement for democracy that encourages the participation of civil society in elaborating public policies’.

The Meeting also held a panel focused on HIV and STDs where it was discussed the reform of the National AIDS Law (Law 23.798). Along Mr Kaski, Vice Minister of Health, and the head of the National Program for AIDS and STDs, Mr Carlos Falistocco, FGEP participated actively in the discussion, highlighting the importance of centralized purchases of medicines and the usage of TRIPS health safeguards to guarantee the sustainability of the National Program in charge of providing universal access to treatments.

FGEP also highlighted the importance of regulating the medicines industry on the issues of side effects and of granting pre and post-testing counseling. These proposal were positively received by members of the panel and the audience.

This event has shown how good practices and public policies promoted by FGEP are also considered crucial by high-level public authorities, as means to guarantee access to medicines for all. It encourages us to continue our advocacy actions to guarantee that access to health is a right for all and not a business of a few.