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Access to medicines

One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve "access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all".

Trade topics
  • Intellectual property
  • Trade policy

The Commission is working to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal in low- and middle-income countries through projects and financial support. In the 2015 ‘Trade for All’ Communication, it committed itself to continue promoting an ambitious global health agenda and better access to medicines in poor countries.

EU trade policy and access to medicines

The Commission actions address issues like affordability, availability, and safety and quality, by supporting:

  • global health organisations and initiatives – for example by contributing to the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicines;
  • low- and middle-income countries’ public health systems – for example by financing a Partnership to strengthen pharmaceutical systems and improve access to quality medicines in 15 African ACP countries;
  • research and development of medicines to combat poverty-related and neglected infectious diseases – the Commission is the world’s third largest public funder of R&D, providing €905 million from 2007-2013 and €365 million from 2014-2015, and;
  • trade rules facilitating access - for example, the EU has eliminated tariffs for medicines because they act as a tax and make the medicines more expensive.

Check for key actions to support access to medicines. The Commission is convinced that these are the most effective actions to promote and facilitate access to medicines.

EU legislation encouraging companies to sell medicines at lower, tiered prices

One of the trade rules facilitating access is EU legislation encouraging companies to sell medicines at lower, tiered prices in poor countries. In 2016 the Commission evaluated this legislation as part of its REFIT regulatory fitness and performance programme.

The Regulation was part of a 2001 EU strategy to boost measures aimed at tackling HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the drive to reduce poverty. It addresses a specific issue as part of the wider strategy and the evaluation found that it has made a small contribution to stimulating tiered pricing policies.

The evaluation concludes that the Regulation still has a role to play in efforts to target major diseases together with all the other Commission measures described above, in the context of aiming to continue to promote an ambitious global health agenda and better access to medicines in poor countries.

Evaluation of Council Regulation (EC) 953/2003 to avoid trade diversion into the EU of certain key medicines:

More on Council Regulation (EC) 953/2003

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