Labour's 'Medicines for the Many' Policy - An Access Milestone!

Speaking to Comhlamh, Diarmaid McDonald who is Founder of Just Treatment and close ally of Access to Medicines Ireland said:

“In their announcement yesterday, Labour acknowledged the reality facing most European countries – the prices of medicines are rising at an unsustainable rate and governments need to take action if we are to safeguard patient access and future medical innovation. As the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and other EU countries take similar steps, Ireland needs to do reflect on how we will cope with this new reality. We urge the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health to consider the breadth and vision of the Labour proposals and come up with a matching set of proposals of their own. This is a landmark moment that I hope will inspire many others to follow. ”

Access to Medicines Ireland welcomes The Labour Party’s new comprehensive policy on tackling the extortionate high costs of lifesaving medicines. The policy paper, Medicines for All outlines the issues surrounding the the innovation model and proposes changes that will address the fundamental problems with the current model.

Problems outlines:

A) Pharmaceutical companies’ research and development activities are not aligned with public health needs.

B) The lack of transparency across the pharmaceutical model stifles innovation, and the NHS fails to manage data as a core NHS asset in the healthcare innovation process.

C) The NHS acts too often as price taker, rather than a price setter, despite being the main buyer of pharmaceuticals in the UK. As a result, out-of-reach drug prices burden the NHS budget or mean that the NHS is unable to provide medicines to patients that need them.

D) A highly financialised pharmaceutical industry is focused on maximising profits in the short term in order to generate the highest shareholder value. Extensive public funding supports the basic science behind pharmaceutical innovation, and yet the public gets barely any return on that investment when the research is commercialized.

Proposed changes:

A) Channelling taxpayers money towards the kind of research that will make the biggest difference to people’s lives, while safeguarding affordability through licensing agreements. Ensuring public return on public investment.

B) Using existing alternative innovation models, such as those used to fund R&D into neglected diseases and apply these to new disease areas and increase their benefits for public health and the public purse.

C) Building up pharmaceutical research and manufacturing capacity using alternative ownership models that place the NHS, patients, researchers and public health experts at the centre of decision making. Too often, publicly funded researchers have no option but to hand their work over to a private sector entity which exploits their work with little regard for the public interest; or companies exploit market failings to over-charge for unpatented medicines.

D) There are successful examples of publicly owned pharmaceutical companies, that produce both originator and generic medicines, in many countries, particularly middle-income countries, and examples of these are set out in this report. Labour proposes to create a publicly owned generic manufacturer which will develop and supply medicines to the NHS at a much cheaper price.

E) Using Compulsory Licensing to remove the patents on drugs that are deemed overpriced and that has negative consequences to the health of the British citizens. Ellen t’ Hoen, founder of wrote a blog concerning data exclusivity and how it may inhibit generic versions coming onto U.K. market after a compulsory license is issued:

F) The Job Question: Enhancing the public role in health innovation will diversify the economy, create jobs in the life sciences and drug manufacturing industry, and set us on track to truly be an innovation nation.

“The sustainable future of the NHS, the health of our citizens and economy, and the goal of overcoming inequalities in the UK and around the world, all require an ambitious rethinking of the pharmaceutical innovation model so that public interest and public value are central.”

Labour’s policy paper has inspired the access to medicines movement worldwide and will increase the pressure on governments to implement reforms that will make medicines affordable and accessible to all who needs them.

To read more on Access to Medicines Ireland reaction to this policy paper, please find Comhlamh’s blog on the subject here:

Medicines for the Many policy: