Training supports Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in increasing access to lower-priced medicines

WHO/Sergey Volkov

Concerned with spiralling health costs and aiming to improve access to medicines in their countries, the governments of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine sought WHO/Europe’s support in understanding the impact of intellectual property rules on the affordability of medicines. They also requested assistance in investigating the patent status of specific finished products of essential medicines in their countries.

Acting upon this request, WHO/Europe organized a 2-day training seminar on 26–27 October 2017 for government officials from the 2 countries to explore legal options to increase access to lower-priced medicines. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also provided their expertise at the training.

Roman Ilyk, Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine, opened the seminar. He pointed out that the event was especially timely and would help officials in the current revision of the law on medicines and on patents.

Learning from experiences around the world

Drawing on lessons from other countries and international developments, the seminar provided practical guidance on the use of flexibilities in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Participants also explored relevant regulatory issues for the licensing of generic medicines.

Examples discussed in the seminar included South Africa’s efforts to increase access to HIV medicines, Argentina’s stringent patent criteria, and Thailand’s experience in granting and implementing government use licences to enable the import and production of generic versions of medicines patented in the country. Case studies illustrated obstacles in making generic medicines available, and legal and practical options to overcome them.

The seminar focused primarily on increasing access to essential medicines to treat HIV, hepatitis C and cancer.

Policy dialogue with high-level officials

In association with the training, WHO/Europe also organized 2 policy dialogues for high-level officials: one in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, on 28 September 2017, and one in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 25 October 2017.

These meetings highlighted the interplay between health, trade and intellectual property, with a focus on the potential impact of current trade agreements on people’s access to medicines in the countries. Ministers, heads of administration, heads of technical agencies, members of parliament and other officials benefited from these dialogues.

In the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, accessibility and affordability of medicines are high on the political agenda. In May 2017, Ukraine started to pilot the reimbursement of outpatient medicines in order to increase access to treatments for diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular diseases. The Republic of Moldova has a well-established reimbursement system, but the national health insurance fund struggles to contain costs of reimbursed medicines and to provide access to new treatment options for patients.