In 1999, Médecins Sans Frontières launched the Access Campaign with the sole purpose of advocating for the accessibility and development of life-saving and life-prolonging medicines, diagnostics and vaccines for patients in MSF projects and beyond. Here are just some of the areas the Access Campaign worked in 2014.
The Access Campaign drew attention to the challenges of delivering life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries, advocating for companies to reduce prices and to improve thermostability to enable the vaccines to be transported further into remote areas without the need for constant refrigeration.
Having survived extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) – the deadliest form of the disease – Phumeza Tisile, with her MSF doctor Jenny Hughes, wrote the “Test Me, Treat Me” drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) manifesto to urge countries, companies, donors and researchers to support better DR-TB diagnosis and treatment. More than 55,000 people from around the world signed the petition, which was presented to global leaders at the UN’s World Health Assembly in Geneva in May.
As MSF was preparing to scale up treatment programmes for hepatitis C, a disease which affects 150 million people worldwide, the Access Campaign called on pharmaceutical firms to reduce the exorbitant prices of the drugs used to treat the disease. Highlighting the enormous gap between the prices being charged and the actual cost of production, MSF urged countries and companies to take all necessary measures to ensure affordable access to these life-saving drugs.
An unprecedented outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa prompted MSF to call on donors, researchers and pharmaceutical firms to collaborate to fast-track trials of new vaccines and treatments for the disease, and to run some trials at MSF management centres in West Africa. Affordable access to promising products should be prioritised for those in the most affected countries.
Trade agreements currently being negotiated between developed and developing countries, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, pose a serious threat to affordable medicines. MSF has urged countries not to accept harmful intellectual property provisions that extend monopoly periods for high-priced medicines while blocking price-lowering generic competition.
PROTECTING THE ‘PHARMACY OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD’
India’s vital role in providing affordable medicines to developing countries, as well as MSF programmes, is under threat from moves to roll back public health ‘safeguards’ in India’s patent law, which protect against frivolous patent abuse and allow generic competition to flourish in the interest of access to affordable medicines. MSF urged the Indian government to stand firm in the face of pressure from the US government and multinational pharmaceutical companies.
PRIORITIES FOR 2015
In 2015, a major campaign on vaccines will be launched, advocating for a reduction in prices and for an increase in transparency regarding pricing. The Access Campaign will continue to push for affordable hepatitis C drugs, and for wider availability of new drugs to treat DR-TB.