Controversy Over Language in Draft UN UHC Declaration May Delay Finalization

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A recent draft of a United Nations (UN) declaration on Universal Health Care (UHC) contains controversial language regarding sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and research and development (R&D). Particular areas of dispute include transparency in costs of drug R&D and changes to financing mechanisms, including delinkage of the cost of R&D investment and the price of sales. Language regarding public disclosure of R&D costs and medicine prices raises concerns for pharmaceutical companies, many of which consider this information to be proprietary. The issue of financing mechanisms for drug R&D has also been a topic of recent debate. Some believe that separating the cost of investment of R&D from price and volume of sales may facilitate innovation and restrict overuse of certain drugs, such as antibiotics that could lead to antimicrobial resistance. However, the language in the UN Declaration states that alternative financing mechanisms should be implemented “in potential areas where market failure exists”, which, according to some critics of traditional exclusive patent-based R&D financing, may not adequately address broader issues within the R&D financing landscape.
Another issue that may prove even more contentious is that of language about SRHR. References in the declaration to sexual and reproductive health as a right, like the statement that “the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to their sexuality”, may cause disagreement from countries such as the US that are wary of advocating for these rights for fear that they legitimize abortion. If conflict arises over this portion of the declaration, finalization may be delayed beyond its July deadline, and may even extend into September, right before the UN General Assembly High-Level meeting on UHC.

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Categorised in: New R&D

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