WHO Establishes Group to Advise on Medicine Pricing Policy

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a technical advisory group that will advise it on pricing policies for medicines, particularly the prices of medicines on the essential medicine list (EML).The 17-member Technical Advisory Group on Pricing Policies for Medicines (TAG-PPM) will support WHO to help strengthen policies, improve transparency about prices and improve access to medicines.

“One of the group’s key initial functions will be providing technical advice and assistance to WHO regarding the role of price and cost in the selection of essential medicines and beyond the EML,” said WHO spokesperson told Health Policy Watch.

The EML provides guidance to national health authorities on the products and services that should be prioritised.
The group will also identify economic data that can assist the EML expert committee in their decisions.

“What health economic data would be most meaningful for decision-making about essential medicines? What methodologies and metrics would be appropriate measures of affordability? This input could then be taken into account by WHO for the revision of the process for updating the WHO Model Lists,” the WHO spokesperson said.

Countries have often asked the WHO to provide policies and rules to make essential medicines more affordable and accessible.

In October 2021, an expert committee proposed the creation of a working group for the EML to advise the WHO on ways to make highly-priced essential medicines more affordable and accessible.

“Two years later, the WHO has yet to establish the standing EML Working Group on pricing. However, it appears that the newly formed Technical Advisory Group on Pricing Policies for Medicines (TAG-PPM) has subsumed the role of a standing EML working group on pricing. It remains to be seen if this new WHO pricing group will identify policy interventions, including compulsory licensing, that could facilitate relevant and rapid decreases in prices to reach universal access,” said Thiru Balasubramaniam, Geneva Representative of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI).

The EML, first published in1977, is updated every two years in consultation with experts worldwide but many drugs are left out because of their high cost. This year, for example, some effective cancer drugs for the treatment of lung and breast cancer were left out because of their high cost.

WHO has said it will share more information on TAG-PPM’s agenda and workplans on its site soon. 

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