28 septiembre 2017

The National Assembly’s Committee on the Right to Health Care held a series of meetings on medications and medical devices within the context of the debate on the wording of the Organic Health Code. The committee received Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) representatives José Luis Castro and Alexander Lemgruber, Assistant Secretary of Oversight and Governance of the Ministry of Public Health Jaqueline Calle, and Executive Director of the Ecuadoran Association of Distributors and Importers of Medical Products (Asociación Ecuatoriana de Distribuidores e Importadores de Productos Médicos or Asedim) Cristina Murgueittio, all of whom gave their opinion on the topic within the national and regional spheres.

PAHO Regional Advisor José Luis Castro stated that several topics in the health code bill are consistent with universal health with regard to access to quality health services, without generating any costs at the level of the patient’s point of care.

In turn, Jaqueline Calle indicated that there is a broad chapter within the code. She explained that the National Health Authority will regulate and oversee procedures for the provision of medications and medical devices, as well as their quality, safety, efficiency, and sound use, in order to assure access and safeguard the health of the population.

In turn, the Asedim’s director offered a series of suggestions to amend the health code. The first refers to a conceptual differentiation between medications and medical devices based on international parameters defined by the Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF). The director gave her assurances that the code considers the two terms as if they were the same concept when they are actually of a different nature. For this reason, she recommended shaping the GHTF’s definition within this legal body.

She likewise proposed the creation of one specific chapter within the code addressing the topic of medical devices and another one to address medications. The director specified that the population should be able to access quality, efficient, and safe medications, for which reason it is essential that there be regulation by the authorities within the health realm.

The vice president of the Committee, governing party assembly member Jorge Yunda (Alianza PAÍS), stated that access to medications should be framed within the provisions of the Constitution and the Health Code. “The Ecuadoran people should have access to the best medications in the world, not merely the cheapest ones,” he stated.

Governing party assembly member and member of the legislative body María José Carrión (Alianza PAÍS) stated that the ongoing search for mechanisms to ensure optimum access and the efficiency and quality of medications and medical devices is the duty of the state. She emphasized that the health of the population cannot be weighed against the commercial perspective of the pharmaceutical companies or device manufacturers and made reference to setting accessible prices for quality medications.

Another of the legislator’s concerns is the disproportionate marketing around these supplies over the health of the population. “This leads health professionals to prescribe higher-cost medications instead of generic ones.” She averred that these types of advertising mechanisms feed the capitalist system and exacerbate social inequity.