Report Public Eye, 2019
The Swiss pharmaceutical firms Roche and Novartis claim to conduct clinical drug trials in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) only when they intend to market the tested product locally. International ethical standards require vulnerable groups to benefit from the results of research carried out on them – i.e. the tested medicine should be locally accessible if proven beneficial (commonly referred to as post-trial access or PTA).
This research verifies whether the two Swiss pharmaceutical giants meet their ethical PTA obligation based on a selection of noncommunicable diseases (NCD) medicines tested in five LMICs: Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Ukraine.
Results: The vast majority of the medicines were found to be approved for marketing in the selected LMIC. However, in terms of accessibility, registered cancer treatments remain completely unaffordable for the majority of the population. Many of them are not even included in basic health insurance packages or they are not available at the point-of-care during the whole duration of the treatment. With few exceptions, access to these medicines is simply a lottery.
Due to these inadequate pricing policies, which fail to reflect local economic realities, Novartis and Roche cannot be said to comply with their ethical obligations in terms of PTA in LMICs.