WHO Releases Report on Measures to Improve Market Transparency for Medications, Vaccines and Health Products

WHO/Europe has released a report identifying and summarising the current evidence on the implementation of transparency measures in the WHO European Region, two years after the World Health Assembly Resolution 72.8 on improving market transparency for medicines, vaccines, and other health products was adopted. This comes after a heated dispute about the public and private sectors’ roles and duties in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Price transparency and greater transparency of research and development costs were highlighted as two methods in place to improve market transparency. Among other recommendations, the assessment emphasizes the significance of transparency, as well as price and cost monitoring. It further indicates that when countries are determining whether or not to enter into pricing-related confidentiality agreements with pharmaceutical corporations, the public interest should be taken into account.

The study was created by academics from Medicines Law and Policy and is part of the Health Evidence Network synthesis report series. It is based on a scoping review of 50 publications.

Medicines, vaccinations, and other health goods might be too expensive, preventing access to life-saving therapies. The high cost of medications for governments may end up overburdening health budgets or causing inequity among particular demographic groups.

Patients may have to pay for drugs “out of pocket” in some cases if they are not covered by current policies. The high cost of drugs can cause financial hardship, which is referred to as catastrophic health spending in extreme circumstances. The WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Financing keeps track of healthcare costs, including out-of-pocket expenditures, on a regular basis.

A lack of openness in many facets of the pharmaceutical, vaccine, and healthcare markets inhibits sound decision-making in both the public and commercial sectors. Member states have long expressed worries about their ability to make fully informed decisions when negotiating the purchase of such products.

This prompted the World Health Assembly to enact Resolution 72.8 in 2019, which advocates for greater openness in a variety of areas of the market, including pricing, patent status, clinical trial outcomes, mark-ups, and R&D costs. When negotiating prices for medications, vaccines, and other medical products, the paper offers policy considerations for the Member States.          

As part of the Oslo Medicines Initiative, discussions on market transparency will take place. The initiative, which was developed by WHO Europe, the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, and the Norwegian Medicines Agency, provides a neutral platform for the public and private sectors to collaborate on a vision for equitable and long-term access to effective, novel, high-cost medicines.

Photo Credit: https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/439308-price-transparency-is-key-to-a-functional-health-care-market