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Developing Countries: Medical Treatments

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on his Department's proposals on a Medicines Transparency Alliance. (142532)

DFID is working with a wide range of partners, including the World Health Organisation, developing country Governments, pharmaceutical companies and non-governmental organisation on the development of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA).

MeTA seeks to increase transparency over vital information on the price, quality and availability of essential medicines in developing countries so as to help tackle high prices, challenge corruption and address inefficiency. One third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicines. The prices patients pay are often much higher than the price agreed at procurement, with cumulative mark-ups of 300 per cent. not being uncommon as medicines move from procurement through storage, supply, distribution and ultimately to health centres and pharmacies. In addition, up to a third of medicines on the market in developing countries are fake.

Procurement and supply systems are generally opaque, meaning excessive price mark-ups, corruption and inefficiency can go unchallenged. Most people have little idea about what medicines should cost, or what a good-quality medicine looks like.

MeTA seeks to change this by securing high-level political commitment to increased transparency and accountability over medicines procurement and supply in countries that choose to take part, and by bringing the right people around the table—Government Departments, civil society organisations, companies and others—to agree ways of disclosing information on the price, the quality and the availability of essential medicines into the public arena, with the aim of ultimately reducing the cost, improving the quality and increasing the availability of medicines.

MeTA builds on the success of the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI) by applying principles of transparency and accountability to medicines procurement and supply. Application of EITI principles to other sectors was supported by G8 countries at the recent Heiligendamm summit, and their specific application to the health sector was a commitment in the 2006 International Development White Paper.

A major stakeholder meeting for MeTA was held on 18 April, attended by all relevant groups and addressed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. An official launch will take place in the summer, with the launch of pilots in around five countries to develop a model approach to increased transparency and accountability in medicines procurement and supply.