Media centre

Access to medicines

13 March 2009

WHO considers equitable access to safe and affordable medicines as vital to the attainment of the highest possible standard of health by all. WHO Member States reaffirmed their commitment to these principles in May 2008, with the adoption of a resolution on the "Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property" (WHA61.21). Among other important objectives, the resolution expressed Member States' commitment to improving the delivery of and access to all health products and medical devices by effectively overcoming barriers to access.

In this context, the recent events related to the handling of medicines in transit and the potential consequences for the supply of medicines in developing countries are of major concern to the organization. This issue has been raised in the meeting of the WHO Executive Board in January 2009 and was a subject of discussion in the recent WTO TRIPS Council.

In relation to this issue, WHO is continuing to follow developments and consulting with Member States and relevant international intergovernmental organizations. WHO also understands that there is ongoing dialogue among the parties concerned to resolve the matter. Given the public health impact of this issue, WHO remains ready to provide, upon request, technical and policy support to Member States.

Ensuring that the interests of trade and health are appropriately managed, also means that the flow of legitimate medicines, including generic medicines, is not impeded.