Working towards a sustainable approach for access to medicines in Georgia, particularly in light of the country preparing for Global Fund support withdrawing from the country.
An estimated 11,000 people are living with HIV in Georgia, this is a prevalence rate of around 0.4% with prevalence higher among men. The Georgian AIDS Center has 7,521 people living with HIV registered for treatment. Make Medicines Affordable’s campaign partner, Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), believes that HIV-related stigma is one of the reasons for the treatment gap, particularly for LGBT people who, due to dual discrimination, are less likely to access services. Intellectual Property (IP) barriers are another significant reason, which affects prices and therefore access to HIV treatment and other essential treatment.
Roughly a third of the 150,000 people living with Hepatitis C in Georgia have accessed treatment through Gilead’s ‘Hep C elimination programme’.
Gilead has donated sofosbuvir-based treatment, with the programme originally envisioned to run up until 2020. It is not know yet if this may extend in order to treat more people to increase the likelihood of achieving the goal.
OSGF’s shares the aim of eliminating Hep C. However, from the organization’s perspective, while it is good news for the individuals who have received Hep C treatment, there is a longer term goal – a sustainable response to all diseases.
OSGF would like to see this addressed systematically through lower prices and a patent system that prioritises public health over profits. It is not sustainable for pharmaceutical companies to act as a ‘benefactor’ on isolated medicines. It does not solve the underlying need for fairer, affordable pricing of all drugs.
This aim of achieving fair pricing is all the more relevant as Georgia is expecting to transition from Global Fund support to 100% national funding of health services. The process has begun and is expected to be completed by 2020-21, although the date may change.
Georgia has a universal health care (UHC) system. The government must ensure that the health budget can cover all people and not be forced to enter into some sort of ‘treatment lottery’ due the prices demanded for drugs. If sustainable price reductions are not achieved, universal access across a range of diseases will not be within budget.
OSGF’s priorities for 2019:
Designing an implementing strategies aimed at securing sustainable pricing for optimal treatment so all people can access essential treatment after the Global Fund transition, this includes:
- Encouraging the country to make use of the flexibilities legitimately permitted under the TRIPS Agreement, which the country signed in 2015.
- Examine patents and patent applications.
- Develop mechanisms for detecting gaps in the procurement system and legislation, and work to eliminate the shortcomings. This includes working towards a stronger patent law, one that prioritises public health.
- Strengthen community and civil society organizations (CSOs). Over the previous few years OSGF has increasingly been building relationships and skills within activist networks to prepare for the Global Fund transition.
Last updated May 2019.