As part of our European Action, James Cole (President of our Sussex Youth Stop AIDS group) and Sol Hallam met Keith Taylor MEP. James describes below what it was like meeting a MEP (Member of European Parliament) and how they influenced him to join the Missing Medicines campaign! Campaigners have met with MEPs across the UK over the past month, so watch this space for more details…

On 29th March, we met with Keith Taylor MEP to discuss our #MissingMedicines campaign and why it essential that the profit led drug Research & Development model is reformed to give millions of people around the world access to life saving medicines that they currently are denied. Keith has been a Green MEP for the South East of England since 2010 having previously held leading positions in the UK Green Party. All it took was a couple emails form our group’s email account, then to our surprise, we found that he was keen to meet with us!

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) member states soon to be meeting in Geneva to discuss the possibility of a legally binding Research and Development (R&D) Agreement – our meeting with Keith focused on this historic opportunity that could change our medical research and development model so that it delivers the drugs we need at the prices we can afford.

For over two decades, the WHO has been discussing an approach to deal with the problems caused from our current biomedical research and development model – primarily the lack of investment into research and development for diseases that affect the developing world or are seen as unprofitable and the high price of drugs. The WHO formed the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG) to research into the best methods that could promote health R&D and address clear market failures. The CEWG came to the conclusion that the only way effective R&D for neglected diseases could be realised was through establishing a coherent global framework on R&D – a R&D Agreement. Similar to the convention on human rights, an R&D Agreement would be a legally binding mechanism that would have the aim of effectively financing and coordinating mechanisms which would promote R&D and improve access to medicine globally.

In this constructive meeting, Keith agreed that our current profit-led R&D model was largely ineffective as denied innovation and allowed for astronomically high prices for essential medicines. He was interested in finding out more about alternative models such as the recommendations from the CEWG and the UN High Panel on Access Medicines – that are driven by global public health needs and seeks to deliver quality medicines that are universally accessible and affordable.

Sussex Youth Stop AIDS campaigners also discussed the dangers of Free Trade Agreements and how in particular the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) presents a significant threat to affordable medicines. Many of the provisions foreseen for TTIP will ensure industry interests are put ahead of patients’ health. For example:

  • TTIP could weaken the negotiating power of governments to make medicines affordable for patients
  • TTIP could extend the length of patents – allowing drug developers to charge higher prices for longer
  • The inclusion of any investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in TTIP could jeopardise public health through allowing foreign companies to use private courts to challenge government decisions that safeguard public health and other public interest concerns.

Keith Taylor, whose Green Party family is the only major group in the European Parliament to oppose the trade deal, has been one of the leading advocates against TTIP and demands that it be scrapped. He recently publicly described the negotiations as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘a threat to the rights and protections we hold dear’. Given Keith’s stance, he was supportive of the campaigning that Youth Stop AIDS have done on TTIP & gave a clear indication that he will stand against TTIP.

After the meeting, Keith said that he was delighted to help Sussex Stop AIDS and will follow up on our discussions in the European Parliament. We plan to arrange meetings with other MEPs to help engineer cross-party support in the European Parliament and drive forward our Missing Medicines Campaign.

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