TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (May15/06)
21 May 2015
Third World Network

Anti microbial resistance: India wants access, resources, tech transfer spelt out in global action plan

by Rema Nagarajan, May 19, 2015 (The Times of India)

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organization's draft Global Action Plan to tackle Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) is being criticized by the developing countries for not taking their concerns on board such as access to new antibiotics and the source of finance needed to put the plan into action.

India's heath minister being the president of the 68th World Health Assembly that kicked off on Monday, there is pressure from various quarters on India to support the Global Action Plan (GAP) in its current form. Developed countries including UK and Sweden and the European Union are among those trying to push the GAP through.

India's stance was clear in its statement on January 29 at the WHO executive board meeting where it talked about the need accelerate R&D for new antibiotics along with ensuring that the prices of new antibiotics are delinked from R&D costs. The statement pointed out that no new class of antibiotics being developed after 1987, was evidence for the failure of current market models of R&D in antibiotics centered on profitability and protection of IPRs.

The UK government review of AMR suggested that pharmaceutical companies could be given up to $3 billion to discover and develop new antibiotics, and those could be sold on a not-for-profit basis. The German chancellor while addressing the WHA also said that as G7 chair AMR was one of her priority areas. Governments of developing countries and public health activists said the worry was that the pharma industry would be funded using public funds on this pretext without any reciprocity in terms of access at affordable prices.

India's January statement had also pointed out how counter-productive it was to link the issues of access and excess of antibiotics which could lead to overdose, incomplete course and incorrect prescription. India pointed out that these could also happen due to "unethical medical and marketing practices" and referred to the role of pharmaceutical companies which spent enormous amounts of money on promoting antibiotics leading to overuse.

Developing countries have also raised the issue of financial and technical assistance to ensure access to modern infection control and diagnostic technologies in developing countries which have the highest burden of infectious diseases.

According to Yokeling Chee, director of Third World Network, a non-profit network of international organizations working on various development issues, the draft Global Action Plan on AMR was primarily focused on monitoring and surveillance of AMR and did not put forward bold steps to deal with AMR such as regulating the unethical marketing and promotion of medicines by pharmaceutical companies. "The GAP also does not contain plans for financial needs assessment and does not have concrete commitment to provide developing countries with the necessary financial support. It is also silent on investing in strengthening health systems although in the absence of a robust health system effective response in AMR cannot be sustained," he said.