Access To Medicines Postponed; UHC, NTDs & Intellectual Property Feature In Next WHO Executive Board Agenda

WHO’s agenda for the next Executive Board (EB) meeting, scheduled for 3-8 February 2020, will see discussions grouped for the first time ever around the three key pillars of the WHO Global Plan of Work for 2019-2023, including expanding health and wellbeing, protection from health emergencies, and universal health coverage to one billion more people.

This is an innovation in the way governing board sessions are organized – but may also help to bring greater focus to debate, organized around key themes.

The 144th Meeting of the EB

Proposed EB discussions on access to gene and cell therapies for cancer and medicines for rare diseases, requested by South Africa and Peru respectively, will be merged and postponed until 2021, according to the list of topics to be tackled at the next EB session included in a note on the EB agenda released Thursday.

The decision received a mixed response from access groups wishing to keep these two issues alive following last year’s approval of the milestone WHA Resolution on transparency in medicines markets.

“The challenges of providing equal access to the new technologies are significant, and the WHO needs to engage now. That said, the deferral to the 2021 Executive Board [meeting] gives everyone more time to prepare and reflect on the measures needed to address the shocking inequalities of access,” said James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International.

KEI also welcomed the fact that there will be a discussion of public health, innovation and intellectual property issues as proposed by Brazil in the February 2020 meeting.

It is likely that the tight schedule for this year’s governing body meetings also has created pressure to keep the agendas more limited, observers noted.

Exceptionally, the next meeting of the Executive Board, which includes some 34 country representatives elected by the World Health Assembly for 3-year terms, has been scheduled for February. Usually meetings are in the first month of the year but the schedule has been shifted due to the Lunar New Year on January 25.

Next year’s WHA meeting in May 2020 will also take place over only 4 ½ days due to the concurrence of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, making the scheduling for that meeting particularly tight.

One change welcomed by civil society has been the publication of more detailed notes under Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s tenure, such as this one, which give an indication of upcoming priorities and discussion items in the WHO governing boards.

Other key items on the EB agenda will include a discussion of the WHO’s NCD Action Plan, including an item on the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem, the Roadmap on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), healthy ageing, nutrition, WHO’s work in health emergencies, and a global digital health strategy.

For more details see the Preliminary Draft Agenda of the 146th EB Meeting and the Note for the Record on the October 5 EB Meeting.


Image Credits: WHO.

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