E-DRUG: MeTA: a welcome force for access to medicines
[Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, chaired the MeTA Launch in London
10 days ago. MeTA countries and staff will be very pleased with his
editorial. Copied as fair use. The MeTA website is at
MeTA: a welcome force for access to medicines
[Lancet editorial, www.thelancet.com Vol 371 May 24, 2008]
When WHO?s first essential drugs list was published in 1977, it was
hailed as a peaceful revolution in international public health. Last
week saw the launch of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) in
This new initiative marks a second phase in that peaceful revolution.
MeTA is a powerful new global alliance between government, civil
society, international institutions, and the private sector. It aims to
increase transparency and accountability in the medicines supply chain.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to expand access to medicines for at
least 1.7 billion people?80% of whom live in low income countries?who
presently have no or inadequate access to essential drugs.
MeTA has two key elements. First, it involves multistakeholder
partnerships. Past discussions about access to medicines have been
scarred by conflict and mistrust. The 2001 court case in which
pharmaceutical companies tried to stop South Africa from facilitating
access to life-saving medicines was a moral low-point in the history of
big pharma. Nobody wishes to return to that era.
Second, MeTA has launched programmes in seven pilot countries?Ghana,
Uganda, Zambia, Peru, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Philippines. These
national alliances will road test MeTA?s core principles. The knowledge
gained from these pilots will be shared with new countries that join the
MeTA owes its existence to the UK?s Department for International
Development (DFID), in collaboration with WHO and the World Bank. At
MeTA?s launch, DFID?s Secretary of State, Douglas Alexander, announced a
£20 million commitment to the initiative over 10 years. Although a small
sum for a programme with such huge expectations, DFID hopes to attract
new donors quickly.
There are tough issues to overcome: pricing, corruption, weak health
systems, poorly developed national regulatory mechanisms, and the
adverse influence of inter national trade agreements.
But there is no doubt that all parties who took part in MeTA?s birth ?
from industry to investors, the UN to national governments ? are
committed to making MeTA work. Access to medicines is a widely accepted
contemporary human right. It is also an issue of trust and reputation
for MeTA?s signatory partners.