France will press its G7 partners this month to launch an “irreversible” process to control the prices of new medicines, part of a global drive to make life-saving drugs more affordable, three sources told Reuters.
President Francois Hollande said in March he would push for the international regulation of drugs prices when he meets other G7 leaders in Ise-Shima, Japan on May 26-27.
The sources said the issue was now on the summit agenda and health ministers will continue work on it in Kobe in September when other parties, such as the pharmaceutical companies themselves, could potentially be involved.
“We need to initiate this process with firmness, and the president wants it to be irreversible,” said a source close to Hollande.
The rising cost of ground-breaking medicines has been criticized around the world, with campaigners in developing countries demanding reform of the patent system to make vital treatments more affordable.
G7 nations are home to most of the leading drug makers and while governments are keen to tackle rising health costs they may be reluctant to pitch themselves against their own pharmaceutical industries.
Any regulation would have to balance the need to keep costs down with the need for pharmaceutical companies like U.S group Pfizer, France’s Sanofi or Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline to retain financial incentives for innovation.
G7 delegations have begun initial talks on the issue but no one expects a breakthrough in the near future, one of the sources said.
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A United Nations panel is discussing ways to improve access to medicines and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has promised to rein in prices in the United States.
In the latest move by the pharmaceuticals industry to address criticism on prices, GlaxoSmithKline said in March it would adopt a graduated approach to patenting its medicines depending on the wealth of different countries.
(Additionnal reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Richard Lough and Robin Pomeroy)