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When it comes to access to medicines, no one should be left behind |


When it comes to access to medicines, no one should be left behind

Lai S. Reyes - The Philippine Star
When it comes to access to medicines, no one should be left behind
At the Access to Medicines Summit 2024: Michelle Erwee, global head of Access to Medicines, Growth and Emerging Markets; Loreann Villanueva, country manager; Rep. Jude Acidre; Dion Warren, Takeda’s head of India and Southeast Asia, Growth and Emerging Markets

MANILA, Philippines — For millions of people around the world, the full enjoyment of the right to health remains an elusive goal, partly because medical care — in the event of sickness, prevention and treatment — depends largely on timely and appropriate access to quality medicines.

In a world where 30 percent of the global population lacks regular access to essential medicines, the need for change is urgent. Nowhere is this challenge more pronounced than in Southeast Asia, where individuals grapple with untreated illnesses due to limited access to medical care. It’s a stark reality that cannot be ignored.

Building bridges

And so, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, researchers, non-government organizations (NGOs), and patient advocacy groups in the country banded together on Feb. 6 and 7 at Diamond Hotel Manila in a bid to improve the lives of millions by making essential medicines accessible to all.

With the theme “Building Bridges: A Blueprint for Collaborative and Innovative Access to Medicines,” the Access to Medicines Summit 2024 showcased a groundbreaking display of unity and determination for this cause.

Organized by Takeda Healthcare Philippines Inc. and RiseAboveNow Business Consulting Group, the summit has attracted more than 100 key stakeholders. It also featured 32 speakers from various sectors and countries like Malaysia and Vietnam, who shared their expertise and commitment to shaping thoughts and driving change across Southeast Asia.

“In a region that is known for its diverse cultures and vibrant communities, ensuring equitable access to medicines is not just a matter of healthcare but a fundamental human right,” noted Dion Warren, head of I-SEA, Growth & Engineering Markets, Takeda Healthcare Phils. Inc. “In such a landscape, the availability and affordability of medicines can mean the difference between life and death to countless individuals.”

Access to medicines, he adds, really means access to healthcare facilities, trained professionals, diagnostic tools, supportive services, and the like.

“It ensures that individuals can receive safe and effective care with the necessary resources and required expertise,” stresses Warren.

Addressing challenges relating to access to medicines also goes beyond financial considerations. While affordability is crucial, raising awareness and providing education are equally important. The key to achieving this is by fostering a collaborative approach with all stakeholders, including government, associations, patient’s advocacy groups, policymakers, pharmaceutical companies, and health experts, among others.

“By joining forces, government and private entities can leverage their respective expertise, knowledge and networks to enhance access to medicines across Southeast Asia. Through these partnerships, we can foster innovation in the development of new medicines, ensuring that the specific healthcare needs of the region and the local communities are met,” explains Warren.

Forging ahead with determination

Health Secretary Dr. Teodoro Herbosa’s recorded keynote address set the tone for the summit’s discussions and initiatives.

“I challenge everyone to formulate more transformative interventions that will provide better access to medicines, especially (to) the vulnerable and poorest population,” he says. “Let us utilize this summit to discuss and ask the hard questions. Today’s activities contribute to the ultimate fulfillment of Universal Healthcare where health equity is one of its guiding principles.”

Dr. Teodoro also encouraged participants to “forge ahead with determination, innovation and compassion.”

“Ensuring that no one is left behind in our pursuit for a healthier, more equitable society,” he enthused.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Enrique A. Tayag led the first plenary session at the summit. He presented the Eight-Point Action Agenda — Every Filipino should feel healthy; Safe, quality, and compassionate service; Technology for prompt services; Crisis-ready; Disease prevention; Mental and emotional comfort; Welfare and rights of health workers; and Protection against any pandemic — established by the DOH to improve the health of Filipinos.

The session also featured discussions and presentations by other experts discussing the root causes of health disparities and strategies to improve access to medicines and patient care.

Plenary Session Two featured speakers who shared initiatives and practical insights to empower attendees in their efforts to improve access to medicines.

Michelle Erwee, global head of Access to Medicines, Growth and Emerging Markets at Takeda, provided a global perspective on Takeda’s initiatives, shedding light on the company’s commitment to addressing this critical issue.

“No single organization or group can fix all the problems that cause unequal access to medicines,” notes Erwee. “As a leading biopharmaceutical company, we understand that we can help by making our medicines and vaccines more accessible to patients.”

This was seconded by Warren: “At Takeda, access to medicines is about better health for patients everywhere, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. Our mission goes beyond mere provision of medicines. We work closely with local partners and the government to strengthen local healthcare systems by addressing barriers to access at each stage of the patient journey.”

Daisy Cembrano, healthcare policy director from the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), offered valuable insights into the efforts being made by its member companies to improve access to medicines in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong shared the city’s commitment to addressing this important issue at the local level.

The final session showcased research and development programs, demonstrating commitment to address unmet medical needs and access to innovative therapies. Participants engaged in discussions, strategizing ways to fortify healthcare infrastructure, establish sustainable supply chains, and strengthen healthcare systems in resource-limited settings.

They also discussed the next steps in crafting a blueprint and policy advocacy guidelines that will empower both public and private entities throughout Southeast Asia to overcome the challenges hindering access to medicines. These blueprints have the potential to transform the approach to medicines accessibility across the region, so no one is left behind.

The Access to Medicines Summit 2024 confronted the complexities of regulatory frameworks and navigated the delicate balance between incentivizing innovation and ensuring affordable access to medicines.

Its impact is expected to extend far beyond its conclusion, as participants carry forward the shared vision of a future where access to life-saving medicines is a reality for all.

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