Essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices will be made affordable and accessible to all in South-East Asia and beyond, as WHO member countries in the region pledged commitment on Tuesday.
“Access to safe, effective and affordable medical products vital to prevent sufferings and impoverishment resulting from high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare by families, especially the poor,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said.
Health ministers and officials of the 11 Member countries signed the ‘Delhi Declaration’ on Tuesday at the Seventy-first Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia Region in the capital. The declaration was signed with the commitment to improve access to essential medical products in view of the challenges in providing the right medical products at the right time to those in need.
Out-of-pocket healthcare spending on medical products has pushed 65 million people in the WHO South-East Asia Region into poverty, according to a WHO report. Hence, improving access to essential medicines is a WHO flagship priority programme in the Region since 2014.
To overcome the challenges, the Delhi Declaration calls for:
- Allocation of sufficient financial resources by countries, as part of overall health financing strategies
- To reduce out-of-pocket payments of families on essential medicines
- Strengthening national policies, regulation, supply chain management, and capacity to leverage intellectual property and trade for public health
- To improve access to medicines and vaccines
- Member countries are committed to develop an effective, transparent and participatory mechanism for regional price negotiation and pooled procurement to ensure accessibility and affordability of essential medical products for life threatening and rare diseases
- To strengthen regulatory cooperation and collaboration to improve availability, quality and safety of essential medical products through the South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN)
- Member countries agreed to leverage this strength to improve accessibility and affordability both within the Region and beyond.
- To develop an essential medical products list, in particular essential diagnostics list, for improved patient care, affordability of quality tests, and greater capacity to diagnose diseases during outbreaks and strengthened capabilities of national laboratories.
- Appropriate use of antibiotics; and innovation and investment in R&D including for neglected diseases, and affordable medical products.
- Member countries agreed to ensure universal accessibility and affordability of essential medical products by 2030, as part of achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and the health related goals of SDG 2030 agenda.
The Regional Committee is held annually and is hosted by one of the 11 Member countries or the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office.