South-East Asian nations commit to making medicines accessible to all

A ‘Delhi Declaration’ was signed by 11 countries of the region with an aim to make healthcare affordable and accessible to its 2 billion people

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Wednesday 05 September 2018

Access to medicines is crucial in achieving universal health coverage and health-related goals of SDG 2030. Credit: PixnioHealth ministers of 11 south-east Asian nations signed a Delhi Declaration that aims to ensure that 2 billion people in the region get easy access to essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices at affordable prices.

“Lack of access to medicine is one of the biggest reasons for ill health and big expenditure on heath,” Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the acting chair of the Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights. People should be able to access healthcare without hardship, she said at the ministerial roundtable meeting organised as part of the 71st session WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia held in Delhi.  

This step has been taken since access to medicines is crucial in achieving universal health coverage and health-related goals of SDG 2030. “Access to safe, effective and affordable medical products is vital to prevent sufferings and impoverishment resulting from high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare by families, especially the poor,” says Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region. It is estimated that in this region, as many as 65 million people are pushed into poverty by high costing drugs.  

The ministers discussed how the region could become self sufficient considering that while India and Bangladesh have a robust Pharma industry, smaller countries like Bhutan and Maldives have to import drugs. For this, a transparent mechanism for regional price negotiation and pooled procurement was discussed. In the declaration, member states committed to ensure there are sufficient funds for the project and the policies related to access to medicines are strengthened. 

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