[Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch, Link (CC-BY-NC-SA)] A group of civil society organisations and health experts have sent a letter to delegates to this month’s annual World Health Assembly urging support for a study on the delinkage of the costs of research and development from the prices of cancer medicines. Member states reportedly met on the issue today and are still undecided.

During the upcoming World Health Assembly, taking place from 22-31 May, a resolution on cancer is expected to be before the Assembly, following a discussion in January at the World Health Organization Executive Board with no consensus on the language (IPW, WIPO, 2 February 2017).

According to a source, WHO delegates met today at the WHO. Some 25 delegations met to further discuss the resolution.

The paragraph of the resolution talking about delinkage between the R&D cost and the prices of medicines is the only remaining open paragraph, according to the source.

Knowledge Ecology International Director James Love told Intellectual Property Watch, “you will never have universal access without delinkage. It is the only hope that you have to bring prices down.” People who resist delinkage are accepting rationing and inequality, he added.

A group of 28 health non-governmental organisations and health experts sent a letter [pdf] to support the language in the draft WHA cancer resolution calling for a feasibility study on delinkage.

The letter argues that cancer medicine prices are too high, “they are not affordable or sustainable, and access to new cancer medicines in unequal and unfair.”

“None of the 56 novel cancer medicines approved by the US FDA [Food and Drug Administration] from 2010 to 2016 are included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML), and many are rationed or not reimbursed even in high income countries, because of the price,” the letter says.

“Delegates to the World Health Assembly need be open to alternative R&D [research and development] models that do not rely on unaffordable medicine prices as the predominant way to fund cancer drug innovation,” it adds.

If the WHA does not decide on the feasibility study, it would be bending “to the power of large pharmaceutical corporations and their agents, that have a vested interest in defending a system that puts the price of medicine above the interests of the patient.”

EU Support?

Separately, Knowledge Ecology International sent a letter [pdf] to the European Union on 31 March to express concern about access to cancer drugs in the EU, and asking the EU to support the feasibility study.

The EU responded that there is a widespread agreement by Member States on the need for a WHO cancer resolution to be adopted in May 2017. “The majority of the Resolution is accepted with great support,” the EU said, according to a copy of the letter.

The letter notes the concerns of the EU about the increasing prices of cancer treatments, and states that the European Commission statement “advocates for a robust and comprehensive Cancer Resolution that can help drive national progress, particularly in low- and middle-income countries that face the biggest challenges of a rapidly growing cancer burden.

Without mentioning the feasibility study, the letter says “the Cancer Resolution will be a landmark document for cancer and should call for the development and implementation of national cancer plans, population-based cancer registries, a world cancer report and a well-trained oncology workforce.”