22 March 2024 | Statements

Act now for tomorrow: equitable access to pandemic life-saving health tools is needed

Key points:

Geneva – As deliberations are taking place on the path forward for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR), Unitaid calls for integrating equitable access into every facet of pandemic innovation. Access is not an afterthought; it is a critical aspect that must be integrated from the very beginning of the research and development value chain to the adoption of required tools. This requires a collective and coordinated effort to ensure that all medical countermeasures (vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, including medical oxygen) are accessible to those in need, precisely when they are most needed.

In collaboration with our partners, Unitaid has identified actionable steps that can facilitate this process, as outlined in our presentation “Access is not an afterthought: Equitable access to therapeutics during pandemics” and the International Pandemic Preparedness Secretariat’s report “100 Days Mission Therapeutics Roadmap”, to which Unitaid contributed.

Access to a lifesaving product requires that a product is developed in the first place. Strong support for a funded and efficient R&D pipeline is required now for the pre-development of products that can meet public health requirements and swiftly adapt to new pandemic pathogens as they emerge. The pharmaceutical industry, together with the public sector, academia and others, will continue to play a pivotal role in this ecosystem. Active commitment from industry on broad and equitable access that can address public health needs, including on research, pricing and expanded production is required.

“To effectively combat future pandemics, a concerted R&D effort from both the public and private sectors is crucial, particularly in areas like antiviral medicines which lagged during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid. “It is imperative to embed access provisions throughout the development process to ensure that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, has access to essential tools for prevention, diagnosis and care.”

Access considerations must be transparent and target broad access, especially in the context of pandemics, where uncertainties abound. The goal of universal access in times of pandemics, including for low- and middle-income countries, hinges on access policies governed by public health needs and disease burden. This cannot be predetermined and requires flexibility and adaptability in response strategies.

Preparedness efforts must also focus on expanding capabilities in low- and middle-income countries. Supporting effective and connected clinical trial platforms now will enable the rapid evaluation of pre-developed candidates in the event of a pandemic, including in combinations as relevant. Moreover, ethical guidelines for post-trial access must be adhered to, ensuring that communities participating in trials have continued access to interventions. Sustainable and viable production in various regions, enabled by IP-sharing and technology transfer initiatives, should be supported to address the needs in all disease areas, while also remaining agile to pivot to surge demand for priority pandemic products as the need arises.

At Unitaid, we save lives by making new health products available and affordable for people in low- and middle-income countries. We identify innovative treatments and tools, help tackle the barriers that are holding them back, and deliver them to the people who need them most – fast. As we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we aim to establish and fund a sustainable road map for rapid and efficient responses to pandemics, ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has equal access to the lifesaving health tools they need.


Media contact:

For more information and media requests:

Hervé Verhoosel

Head of Communications and Spokesperson

M: +33 6 22 59 73 54

verhooselh@unitaid.who.int

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