Sunday, March 20, 2016

5 Reasons Why You Should Support #AskPharma Campaign

Dr. Kitts Sarte discussing the #AskPharma campaign last 19 March 2016 at The Linden Suites.
Ze cranio kid has been in and out of the hospital numerous times due to pneumonia. Countless times we stay there for a week or so after he'd given a dose of prescribed antibiotics. You might be wondering if he doesn't have any vaccines for it. Due to the steroids that he also take as maintenance, his pediatrician and endocrinologist kept us from getting vaccines after he got his measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Months and months after, we can't stop being confined due to pneumonia, and I can't just sit and wait for the antibiotics to crack up. I decided to ask his endocrinologist if we're allowed to take even the vaccine for pneumonia called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and we had a go. I asked his pediatrician how much was it back then, and it's a whopping Php 4,000. Two years ago, it was already pricey, how much more today? And to tell you honestly, we can't afford to have the shot because we have more important things to spend the Php 4,000 to.

No wonder a lot of kids, not only in the Philippines but also all over the world, and that's a count of 1.1 million children are dying of pneumonia even before they reach five every year. That is 18% of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection affecting the lungs caused by S. pneumonia bacteria or pneumococcus, treatable, curable, and preventable. So let me tell you five reasons why you should support the #AskPharma campaign by Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The cost to vaccinate a child is too expensive.

MSF is campaigning for lower vaccine prices. The cost to vaccinate a child has increased dramatically in recent years: many countries struggle to absorb the rising costs, while others can’t afford to introduce certain vaccines. For example, parents in Indonesia and the Philippines are paying around $150 to $300 for pneumonia vaccines (retail/private), this is unaffordable for many families. Affordable vaccine pricing would allow us to vaccinate more kids.

What we ultimately want is for Pfizer and GSK to lower the price of the pneumonia vaccine to $5 per child for all developing countries (for three doses, required for full vaccination).

Your voice makes a difference.

A collective voice of concerned supporters and patients can make a difference. We’ve done this before and we know this would work with your support. For example, take MSF’s experience in bringing down the price of HIV/AIDS treatment from $10,000 to $100 per year.

Now we’re asking you to help increase pressure on Pfizer and GSK, the only two companies that make the pneumonia vaccine, to make prices more transparent and affordable for developing countries.

At the very least, the prices that countries pay for the pneumonia vaccine should be public information; we want countries to have the information necessary to be able to negotiate better prices, and humanitarian agencies to be able to access the vaccine at $5 per child.

$5 is a reasonable price for pneumonia vaccine.

We looked at all the information publicly available regarding the cost to make the vaccine to determine an affordable and viable price point.

Vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India has publicly stated that it will sell the vaccine for $6 per child (for all three doses) when it brings its version of the vaccine to market in several years’ time.

In 2013, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, released an evaluation that concluded the price it pays for the pneumonia vaccine is likely well above the cost to make the vaccine. In the meantime, Pfizer and GSK have already reaped more than $25 billion in sales for this vaccine since over the past five years, the majority from sales in wealthy countries.

Pharma companies should not take advantage of poor people.

MSF doesn’t believe life-saving vaccines should be sold for huge profits in developing countries. Companies must do their part to reduce vaccine prices and lower the overall cost to immunize a child.

Today even at the lowest global price for the poorest countries, it costs 68 times more to vaccinate a child than it did in 2001. Nearly half of that increase is due to the high price of the pneumonia vaccine alone. Pfizer and GSK have collectively reported more than US$ 25 billion in global sales from this vaccine.

Price transparency is every country’s right.

In order to negotiate better vaccine prices, countries need to know the prices all countries are paying for vaccines.

After years of negotiation with Pfizer and GSK, we are still unable to unlock the information on vaccine pricing that is very much needed by health ministries, healthcare providers and humanitarian actors. Hence, the differential pricing from one country to another.

It’s about time that we, through collective action as concerned citizens of the world, ask for a more transparent and affordable vaccine pricing so that all countries can get a better deal and afford to protect their children against pneumonia.


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