The United Nations (UN) announced last week (November 19th), the establishment of a high-level panel on technology innovation and access to health. According to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, the proposal is to find new strategies to provide quality treatment at affordable costs for all, one of the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – know the 17 SDG established in August 17th 2015 at the United Nations Summit for Sustainable Development. A group of 15 experts has been selected to compose the Panel. The Vice President of Production and Innovation in Health from Fiocruz, Jorge Bermudez, was one of the two Brazilians chosen (with Celso Amorim, former Minister of External Relations).
The Vice President of Production and Innovation in Health, Fiocruz, Jorge Bermudez, was one of the two Brazilians chosen to UN Panel (picture: Virgínia Damas)
“I consider an invitation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a summons to work and immediate action. This is the opportunity to discuss the barriers of access to medicines and technologies, in order to overcome them and ensure universal access and accessibility to all our peoples”, said Bermudez. “We will discuss the possibility of creating a balance between innovation, research and development for generating the launching of new products and the access to them, in a commitment to Public Health and Global Health”.
To the Vice President of Fiocruz, the fact that the Panel is coordinated at the highest level of the United Nations raises its importance and, at the same time, increases the responsibility of the specialists. “The issue of access to medicines and technologies, including diagnoses, drugs and vaccines, goes from the scope of health to the highest responsibility among our nations. It is also a matter of human rights, as discussed in many global fora”, he said. “Today, the migration of the millennium development goals for sustainable development goals, in particular Goal 3 [Good health and well-being], must guide our actions for the improvement of health and life of our peoples”.
Formed by specialists with in-depth knowledge in the area of innovation in health, the Panel was created with an overview on topics related to public health, trade, human rights and legal issues associated with access to treatments. The Panel also will seek to encourage new forms of treatment which benefit mainly the poorest populations through the development of vaccines, drugs, diagnoses, and other innovations that meet this audience. In accordance with the opinion of the UN, these searches are currently guided by the financial aspect, excluding solutions that meet the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. The ebola crisis, which left more than 11 thousand dead and a state of world emergency, would have served as a clear example of the need to change this perspective.
“In the last 20 years it has been discussed relations between trade and health, within the framework of the World Health Organization and extrapolating to other global fora. This binomial confronts commercial interests and public health interests. When Brazil and the other countries of the world signed the Trips agreement in 1994, ending ten years of discussions in the so-called Uruguay Round under the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization was created, countries have assumed the responsibility to implement the agreement, but also signed the right to make use of flexibilities or safeguards”, clarified Bermudez. “Recent examples of solutions implemented in Brazil include the official production, centralized purchases, the strengthening of the so-called Economic and Industrial Complex of Brazil, the processes and price negotiations, initially with the antiretroviral drugs and more recently with other products, in addition to the compulsory license issued in 2007. Additionally, Brazil has participated in regional discussions and negotiations”.
The new UN panel on technology innovation and access to healthcare will have two Chairpersons: the former President of Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss, and former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae. The first Panel meeting will take place in December 2015. The recommendations resulting from the group’s meetings shall be submitted to the Secretary-General in June 2016.
Phisician and Doctor in Public Health, Jorge Antonio Zepeda Bermudez took on the Vice-Presidency of Production and Innovation in Health (VPPIS/Fiocruz) in 2011, after leaving the Unitaid Board (International Agency for the Purchase of Medicines for Developing Countries), a position he held from 2007 to 2011. Before, from 2004 to 2007, he headed the Unit of Medicines, Vaccines and Health Technology of the Pan American Health Organization (Paho/WHO) to the region of the Americas.
Graduated in Medicine at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in 1971 and holder of a Master’s degree in infectious and parasitic diseases in 1976, also at UFRJ, Bermudez was Director of Institute of Technology in Pharmaceuticals (Farmanguinhos/Fiocruz), 1985-1987, President of the Instituto Vital Brazil and of the Association of Pharmaceutical Laboratories of Brazil (Alfob) (1987-1991 and from 1999 to 2001) and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Health (1993).
At the Academy, Bermudez has completed a Doctorate in Public Health in 1995, at the National School of Public Health Sergio Arouca (Ensp/Fiocruz), of which he was Director between 2001 and 2004, research coordinator from 1997 to 1998 and he is currently researcher-holder. The manager has several articles, books and chapters of books published about public health, pharmaceutical policy, access to medicines and intellectual property rights, areas in which also he advises master students and doctoral candidates.
Bermudez´s experience in Oswaldo Cruz Foundation will contribute to his participation on the Panel. “Fiocruz is the largest institution of science, technology and innovation in Latin America and one of the largest in the world, with cooperation agreements with major institutions in all continents. In addition, we have research, development and production. We are part of the Ministry of Health [MH] and participate in the implementation of activities guided by guidelines of the MH, with the priorities of the Federal Government and the unified health system SUS”, stated the Vice President. “All the discussion generated by the movement of health reform and the health chapter of our Federal Constitution in 1988 (as everyone’s right to health and a duty of the State) can be models that help in the discussion of how to eliminate barriers and promote access to our populations necessary technologies and help us in defining neglected populations in place of neglected diseases”.
*With information from the United Nations Organization (UN).