Holy See: Universal access to medicine is a moral obligation

March 13, 2017

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Last week, the Holy See – the office of the Catholic Pope – issued an important statement with regards to universal access to medicines when Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, addressed the Human Rights Council. He said that working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and of human labour is not mere philanthropy, but  a moral obligation.

Among others, he referred to a recent amendment to the TRIPs Agreement, which was adopted in January 2017. According to the Holy See, this amendment “provides a secure and legal pathway to access affordable medicines and helps the most vulnerable access treatments that meet their needs, including those related to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, as well as other epidemics.”

Archbishop Jurkovič said a coherent policy was necessary to achieve the goal of universal health coverage. “In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all.”

Intellectual property rights versus human rights

“In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach, we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed. If we fully intend to build a better world and future for the generations that will come after us, we must remedy and correct the misalignments and policy incoherence between the intellectual property rights of inventors, innovators or manufacturers and the human rights of human persons. As such, trade could be considered in the context of public health and access to technologies and thus be closely linked to both the fundamental human rights to health and to life. All our efforts must be directed to ensure human dignity, quality of health and life and to the building of a better world for the generations to come.”

Source and full text: ICN, Independent Catholic News, 11 March 2017