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Editorials Achieving Fair Pricing of Medicines

Can affordability and innovation coexist for medicines?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 13 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:l7058

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  1. Allison Colbert, technical officer,
  2. Andrew Rintoul, scientist,
  3. Mariângela Simão, assistant director general,
  4. Suzanne Hill, director,
  5. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist
  1. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. Correspondence to: A Colbert

Improved transparency is essential to determine what is fair

A worrying gap exists between the promise of medical innovation and affordable access for all. When medicines are found to be truly effective they must be made rapidly available to both health systems and the individuals who need them at an affordable price.

Sadly, some effective medicines remain unavailable to many patients or are available with out-of-pocket costs that make access impossible. In many low income countries the cost of treatment for diseases such as cancer can be devastating because it is the full financial responsibility of the patient.1 When a potential cure for hepatitis C recently became available even high income countries found themselves rationing treatment and unable to treat all patients in need because of high prices.2 These examples are unacceptable.

There are still no treatments available for many public health problems yet drug development pipelines are full for potentially profitable diseases that mainly affect high income countries. …

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