NGOs petition WHO committee on SSFFCs

WHO logoThe World Health Organization has been "crippled" by a lack of human and financial resources and is having its independence threatened by a reliance on extra budgetary resources such as donations for its work on "medical products of compromised quality, safety and efficacy."

That is the contention levelled by representatives from dozens of non-governmental organisations and other groups in an open letter to the chair of the ongoing WHO Working Group on Substandard/Spurious/Falsified/Falsely-Labelled/Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products.

The WHO agreed to set up the working group on SSFFCs last year on the back of accusations it was overly influenced by the intellectual property interests of the branded pharmaceutical industry. As a result, it was argued, the trade in legitimate generic drugs of assured quality was coming under threat. 

"We are of the view that the … meeting is an opportunity for Member states to reenergise WHO’s work programme on medicines particularly in refocusing WHO's attention to facilitate availability of quality, safe and efficacious medicine at an affordable price and on building regulatory capacity of developing countries," says the letter, which is signed by organisations such as Oxfam and Health Action International and addressed to the committee chair, Ambassador Darlington Mwape.

The group takes issue with the use of the term 'counterfeit' in the context of medicines with compromised QSE, and argue once again that the WHO - in allowing continued use of the term - is confusing and provides a "convenient route for proponents of an extended intellectual property agenda to press for inappropriate IP enforcement standards in developing countries."

The signatories are also unhappy with WHO's links to the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) - a consortium of industry groups, regulators, police, customs and other stakeholders.

The provisional agenda for the October 25-28 meeting - available here - indicates that the main topics are to debate the WHO's role in prevention and control of medicines with compromised QSE, including SSFFCs, and its ongoing and future relationship with IMPACT.

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