Swiss TPH Symposium: Improving Access to Healthcare in LMICs

250 experts came together at Swiss TPH to discuss strategies to improve access t
250 experts came together at Swiss TPH to discuss strategies to improve access to healthcare in LMICs. From left: Pierre Morgon (MRGN Advisors), Lutz Hegemann (Novartis), Honorati Masanja (Ifakara Health Institute) and Jutta Reinhard-Rupp (Merck). (Photo: Swiss TPH / Joachim Pelikan)
Access to drugs, diagnostics and vaccines remains a challenge in many in lowand middle-income countries. Today, 8 February 2024, Swiss TPH hosted a symposium bringing together 350 experts and key players from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, politics and product development partnerships to assess current strategies and foster synergies in research, drug development and medicines’ implementation.

There are manifold challenges which can hinder access to medicines. They range all the way from limited funding for research on neglected diseases, complexity in drug development in resource-limited settings, all the way to barriers when integrating new tools and strategies in health systems. Today, 350 national and international experts, researchers and policy-makers came together physically and virtually at Swiss TPH to discuss ways to promote global health and improve access to medicines in lowand middle-income countries (LMICs). The event, organised in collaboration with Healthcare Dialogues , offered a platform for exchange on the role of the private sector and research organisations.

"Switzerland is predestined to take a leading role in global health"

After the opening remarks by Daniel Paris , Head of Medicine at Swiss TPH, Eva Herzog , Member of the Swiss Council of States and President of the Swiss TPH Board of Governors, spoke about Switzerland’s important role in promoting global health. "With its broad expertise in research and innovation, a thriving pharmaceutical industry, and an active civil society, Switzerland is predestined to assume a leading role in global health," Herzog said. She also reminded the audience that improving global health will not least benefit Switzerland itself as strong health systems are the best prerequisites for preventing and combating future pandemics and health crises.

Improving access to drugs, diagnostics and vaccines

Teresa Graham , CEO Pharmaceuticals at F. Hoffmann-La Roche, provided a unique insight into Roche’s efforts to improve access to their innovations in LMICs by working with local partners. Lutz Hegemann , President of Global Health and Sustainability at Novartis, spoke about the responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry to make medicines more accessible. "We cannot fight problems of tomorrow with tools of yesterday. We need to invest in R&D and build new alliances across sectors, to create sustainable solutions that tackle global health challenges and overcome barriers to accessing innovative treatment solutions," said Hegemann.

Other speakers from companies such as Merck, MSD and Roche Diagnostics reflected on their companies’ strategies to make their products more accessible to patients in LMICs. Sabine Specht , Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, highlighted the role of product development partnerships in providing new and better treatment for neglected tropical diseases.

Collective action to improve access to medicines in LMICs

Daniel Paris , Swiss TPH, highlighted the expertise Swiss TPH and its long-standing partners can bring to the table when it comes to research, validation and implementation. Specifically in the area of drug development, Paris underscored Swiss TPH’s unique ability to conduct clinical trials in low-resource settings without compromising safety and quality. Honorati Masanja, Chief Executive Director of the Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, said: "Strengthening health systems is not only about improving access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics but also about building sustainable and accessible structures, which include local partnerships."

In the closing panel discussion, the speakers discussed ways to improve future collaborations and make better use of available expertise and resources. Jürg Utzinger , Director of Swiss TPH, concluded the symposium by emphasising the importance of collaboration: "Partnerships are the cornerstone of progress. From basic research to clinical trials all the way to the integration of new tools and strategies into the health system, only by working together can we effectively improve access to healthcare."

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