Keeping prices for medicine affordable is fundamental to guarantee the Human Right to health, and Colombia has taken a right step in this direction. In 1993, the Colombian Congress passed a law that seemed innovative. This law promised to provide universal healthcare and to strengthen the private health system.
When the right to health in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was enshrined in its article 12, it is demanded to recognize “… The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. This within the minimum obligations that guarantee full realization of this right, which calls for the prevention and treatment of all diseases, as well as the creation of conditions that assure all citizens assistance and medical services.
Two recent decisions by the Ministry of health have restored optimism about the urgent changes the country needs in terms of medicines. First, the Government set fixed prices for 334 drug. In the same way, prices were fixed to several antiretroviral (ARV). Just to name one example, Kaletra, an antiretroviral produced by Abbott, cost in Colombia around $4,500 per year per patient, while in Brazil or Ecuador costs $1250 and Peru $250.
Colombia has managed to move forward on this issue, changing its mercantilist mindset in this area. Colombia has recalled its role as guarantor of Human Rights and has lead pharmacies on the right path.
The State’s response is now more sophisticated and less judgmental, and it must be aligned with the standards of Human Rights. Health should cease to be a privilege and it must be a Human Right.
Colombians’ expectation would be to have a universal healthcare service, where all its inhabitants, without any difference, can receive medical care. Not only primary healthcare, but all kinds of health the individual may require.
If all this works properly, Colombia could have a less costly health system, which can adapt to the national budget which will provide better conditions. Topics such as vaccination and prevention are key for the health system, since they help prevent higher-cost procedures.