I agree that this is an important problem. As the Missing Medicines campaign notes millions of people in the developing world are missing out on the medicines they need. Even here in the UK, the price of drugs disadvantages both patients and taxpayers, and serious concerns continue to be raised about the availability of new treatments.
As you may know, the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines published their report in September 2016. The report recommended that governments negotiate a binding R&D treaty that delinks the costs of innovation from the end prices of health treatments. The report also called for greater transparency to ensure that the costs of the R&D, production, marketing and distribution of medicines, as well as the end prices, are clear to consumers and governments. Labour supports the conclusions of this report.
I believe the UK Government should give proper consideration to the High-Level Panel’s report. Britain should seek to ensure fairness in drug pricing and assist international agencies more effectively to support drug and vaccine deployment in countries where they are needed. I also believe we should invest in new publicly driven R&D to find effective and affordable treatments for a range of diseases in the developing world, including TB, malaria, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases.
Pharmaceutical research here in the UK also needs to be better managed and supported. At the June 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that pledged value-for-money agreements with pharmaceutical companies, ensuring that all NHS patients get access to the most effective new drugs and treatments. I can assure you that I will continue to push for action on this issue.
Labour supported the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill, which it argued would allow the NHS to better control the prices of medicines and close a loophole that allowed a number of companies to increase the prices of drugs. They stated that the situation on drug prices was not serving patients or taxpayers as well as it could and that while spending on medicines since 2010 had increased, serious concerns were being raised about the availability of new treatments. The Labour leadership argued that the Bill struck the right balance between controlling costs, promoting the UK’s life sciences industry and making sure patients get access to new treatments as quickly as possible.
I fully support the position of Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who has argued that pharmaceutical research in the UK should “be better managed, more effective, and better supported.” I am convinced that that can only be done through a strengthened public role in R&D.