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Aiming for a #HealthyEU – Countdown to European Elections – 3 weeks to go : Supporting Sustainable Healthcare Systems

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EFPIA’s Director General, Richard Bergström, continues the #HealthyEU blog series by examining the state of access to medicines in the Ukraine, following a recent visit to the country.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Ukraine and get some first-hand impressions of the current state of access to medicines in that country. The European Patients’ Forum took the initiative of a fact-finding trip: With all the troubles (political, financial, corruption) we wanted to find out if patients are getting the medicines they need. We met several patient groups, journalists, ministers and other officials to find out more about the situation.

The first thing I want to share with you is the fantastic work done by the “All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS” (PLWH). In my meeting with Volodymyr Zhovtiak, Head Coordinator, and his team, I was reminded that in Eastern Europe and Central Asia there are 1.4 million people that are infected. Ninety percent of new cases are from Ukraine or Russia. There has been a 25% increase in the last decade. Terrifying numbers.

Good news is that 100,000 Ukrianians get treatment through the 44 centers run by PLWH. And companies seem to understand that special access programs are required for these countries. ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture between pharmaceutical companies, recently awarded the patent rights for Ukraine and a number of countries to the Medicines Patent Pool. This shows the commitment of my industry to improve access.

Volodomyr raised his concern that, despite many antiretroviral drugs being off-patent, prices are too high, or the medicines are not available in the Ukraine. There are specific regulatory hurdles in the country (lengthy regulatory approvals, special inspection requirements, special import certificates etc.) that make it very difficult to procure medicines. I met representaives from the World Health Organization and heard the same thing: In their support for internally displaced persons, they are limited to medicines registered in the Ukraine. And it is very expensive and cumbersome to get these approvals.

In the broader context of access to medicines, the Prime Minister expressed support for a stability framework agreement with the industry to remove regulatory hurdles; speed up access to innovation; and implement transparent and rational policies to agree fair and affordable prices – bearing in mind that most medicines are paid by cash outside the reimbursement system. One way to move ahead is through multi-stakeholder agreements – as described by EFPIA’s Chief Economist Dr. Richard Torbett in a recent blog.

In my view, it is not acceptable that a country that is so close to the EU (and EFPIA treats Ukraine as a European country as our association Aprad is a member) operates under such different standards. It is essential that Europe address inequalities in access to health services, especially medicines.

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EFPIA Director General

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