Access to Medicines: Discussing Africa on Parliament Hill (part 2 of 3)

This blog is written by David Talbot, Director of International Government Affairs with Eli Lilly.

David Talbot.jpgThis is the second in a three part series that followed Dr. Evan Lee, Vice President Global Health Programs and Access at Eli Lilly and members of the Rx&D team in Ottawa this May in order to highlight a series of programs being undertaken in Africa and developing countries in other continents.

Today's blog will look more at the barriers to accessing medicines in these countries and what the Lilly Global Health Innovation Campaign is doing to overcome these hurdles.

In responding to questions from African Ambassadors and Canadian Parliamentarians about why MDR-TB drugs are not reaching those that need them Dr. Lee identified a number of key barriers:

Lack of support for detection, enrollment and treatment

Insufficient lab capacity

Inconsistent implementation of recommended treatment protocols

High drug prices

Lack of community awareness

Limited country and donor financing

Inconsistent tracking of patients

Majority of patients not offered quality drugs

In order to overcome these barriers Dr. Lee discussed the importance of integrated and collaborative partnerships in creating lasting solutions. This partnership model achieves meaningful impact and results, but it also means that NGOs, governments, the private sector and health professionals have to work together to find solutions to these complex problems.

In discussing his work at Lilly, Dr. Lee also described his experience as a medical doctor and as a front-line worker within Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres - MSF). Bringing medical training and NGO experience to his role in a private sector innovative pharmaceutical company has helped him build bridges to multiple organizations and build trust between the different local and regional players.

Also, Dr. Lee talked about the importance of Canadian leadership in finding solutions to these issues. As Minister for International Cooperation Julian Fantino has stated: "Innovation in global health is a critical piece of the development puzzle... Because more than ever, innovative responses are needed that encompass new development approaches, new partnerships, and enhanced research and development."

Through funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Canada has helped establish the Global Drug Facility (GDF) to invest in quality supply.

The GDF was established in 2001 by CIDA and the Stop TB Partnership to improve access to high-quality TB medicines.

With more than CA$ 120 million invested since 2001, the Government of Canada has made it possible for GDF to provide more than 20 million life-saving, high-quality and low-cost TB treatments to the world's poorest and to reduce patient treatment costs by approximately 30%.

Through the procurement pooling of more than 120 countries' needs, GDF has dramatically removed barriers to access safe TB treatments and minimized stock outs.

In addition, the TB REACH program has increased access to treatment and care.

TB REACH finances innovative approaches to finding and detecting TB in vulnerable groups with limited access to TB care. The Canadian Government support to TB REACH of CA$ 120 Million since 2010 has funded over 100 projects and resulted in a 25 percent increase in cases detected and treated (among population of 90 million people).

By providing seed funding to new and innovative ideas TB REACH fills a clear gap in the innovation chain and enables new approaches to dramatically change the fight against TB.

Canada has stepped up to help those most in need. Partnerships like these and the Lilly Global Health Innovation Campaign make a difference. My next blog posting will look at why this is so important for companies and governments in developed countries to fund and engage directly in this work.

Dr Lee and RxandD in Ottawa.JPG