Lead Author: Elizabeth Omondi
Organization: Cancer Africa
Access to Medicines: Working to Give Patients the Gift of Time
This submission seeks to put forth the importance of ensuring that whilst addressing the access of medicine to all globally that its equally essential to recognize the importance of the supply and administering of the medicines to the patients. This includes addressing the need for informed policy, skilled workforce and infrastructure that will render the treatment and medicines to the patients.
International human rights law in general and the right to health as provided in various international conventions is the most commonly mentioned basis for a right to access to medicine.Though there is no regulatory provisions that explicitly provide for the right to access medicine nevertheless the right to health embodies the need to ensure the provision of health care that is available, accessible, acceptable and of reasonably good quality. It is to that end in seeking to uphold the right to health as envisioned in the conventions that the supply and administering of medicine to the patients be a requisite.
Solutions for the access to medicine will have to be holistic. Majority of the developing countries do not have reliable information as to their local health workforce and infrastructure. Given the complexity of the new emerging diseases in the developing countries it is imperative that resource deficient nations are able to reliably identify their capabilities by having comprehensive information on their health resources. In addition, to ensure there is constant and reliable oversight and accountability. Even if medicine is made accessible and there is no infrastructure and skilled personnel to administer the medicines it would thus be an exercise in futility. For example myself as a cancer patient diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and a hematological blood disorder red cell aplasia, these diseases are essentially complicated and so is the treatment. Managing and developing a treatment plan of such a complex case requires skill. It is one thing to make medicines available and accessible but also important that there is skilled knowledge on how to use these medicines appropriately for the intended purpose. The risks could be fatally detrimental to the patient in cases where the medicines are administered incorrectly.
At a stage where health care infrastructure and the human resource capacity is nascent and not sufficient in many developing countries should provide a conducive platform upon which to develop mechanisms that will provide effective and efficient oversight to the integrity of the health products available and services rendered. At the moment even with the limited health care resources available it is beyond surprising how data on local health resources is poorly mismanaged. For example Cancer Africa is currently developing a database on local cancer care resources to include skilled personnel such as oncologists and pathologists and cancer treatment centers that are available in Africa. In one instance data on currently licensed oncologists in the publicly available master register of licensed physicians in one country did not match the data that was sent to us by the officials of the national medical practitioners licensing board to corroborate our independent search. Follow up on our findings has yielded no response. Countries have local institutions that are mandated by law to provide oversight on their health care workforce, treatment, training and research facilities. However this information is not easily available and in some countries the data is not dependable as aforementioned. A starting point would be for a working group to be established regionally that will address and develop a matrix for which to take stock of the skilled workforce and infrastructure locally available and be able to identify the capacity gaps that will in turn inform policy. This in turn will also uphold the third Sustainable Development Goal.
Bibliography and References
Human Rights and the WTO: The Case of Patents and Access to Medicines
Holger Hestermeyer Print publication date: 2008 Print ISBN-13: 9780199552177 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009
Cancer Care in Africa: An Overview of Resources Daniela Cristina Stefan
Journal of Global Oncology Oct 2015:30-36; published online on September 23, 2015