Resourcing Access to Medicines: Capabilities in the Service of Innovation, Regulation and Delivery

Paivansalo, Ville (2011). "Resourcing Access to Medicines: Capabilities in the Service of Innovation, Regulation and Delivery" Paper presented at the 8th annual conference of the HDCA, 6-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands.

Access to essential medicines is a matter of life and death to millions of people and it is often recognized as a matter of human rights as well. Progress towards universal access to affordable essential medicines inevitably requires substantial public funding. However, under the current conditions of financial scarcity, it has become necessary to look at the available human resources anew and to think more carefully about human capabilities in the service of the regulation, innovation, and delivery of essential drugs. For example the World Health Organization expresses awareness of this in its recently published documents. Yet within the more philosophical discussion of human capabilities the access to medicines challenge has not been broadly addressed. In this article I will have a look at the role of human capabilities in certain prominent medical programs and call attention to some implications of this analysis to the more philosophical understanding of the capabilities approach. I conclude, firstly, that the philosophical analysis should clearly include capabilities beyond the threshold of human capabilities. My practical recommendations in this respect would be to invest more in public health education in low- and middle-income countries and to finance this from a modest global Access to Medicines Tax. Second, the capabilities approach with a distributive agenda can be helpful for the purposes of relating the access to medicines development target to broader development objectives. At the level of delivery, this would include the capability of health professionals to discuss the value of medication in a genuinely dialogical way.
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