Trinity hosts seminar on non-communicable disease prevention

Posted on: 18 April 2019

At the invitation of Chair of the Joint Committee on Health, Michael Harty, experts from the Trinity Centre for Global Health hosted a seminar this week to present international evidence for access to medicines for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to parliamentarians and political staff.

The chief aim of the seminar was to support the capacity of the Houses of the Oireachtas to engage in knowledge-based decision making in the context of Sláintecare’s prioritisation of non-communicable disease prevention and treatment.

The seminar was led by Assistant Professor in Global Health at Trinity, Dr Ann Nolan. Additional contributors included: Director of the Trinity Centre for Global Health, Professor Joe Barry; National Clinical Lead for Diabetes, Professor Seán Dinneen; Clinician and cofounder of Access to Medicines Ireland, Dr Ciara Conlon; Head of Policy, International Development Co-operation Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Nicola Brennan; and Dimitri Eynikel from Médecins Sana Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign.

Panellists and members of staff from the Trinity Centre for Global Health with Chair of the Joint Committee on Health, Michael Harty, on the Plinth at Leinster House following the seminar on Access to Medicines for Non-communicable Diseases.

Contributors focused on the need for robust health information systems, greater affordability and transparency in markets for drug treatments, and the importance of multilateralism in ensuring the provision of essential medicines for non-communicable diseases. Panellists provided Members, parliamentary and political staff with realistically actionable recommendations that could take away from the session.

Dr Ann Nolan said:

There is no relationship between the cost of research and development and the market cost of drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is largely free to demand the most they can from the market and this has enormous implications for health systems in high-income countries, like Ireland, but particularly in low and middle income countries.

Having played a leading role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Ireland must ensure to meet its own targets for sustainable development in health while also supporting our partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen systems, staff and skills to respond to the challenges of accessing essential medicines for non-communicable diseases.

The seminar hosted by the Chair of the Joint Committee on Health, Michael Harty, was held in Leinster House this week and enabled the Trinity Centre for Global Health to provide key information to members of the Oireachtas that will help policy-makers to deliver on Ireland’s international commitments to health at home and overseas.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

Non-communicable diseases are caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. Estimates suggest 40.5 million (71%) of 56.9 million deaths reported globally in 2016 were from NCDs including cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

In Ireland, up to 91% of deaths reported annually are due to NCDs with 29% from cardiovascular diseases; 30% from cancers; 9% from chronic respiratory diseases and 2% from diabetes. Researchers at Imperial College London estimate that Ireland will meet the target of reducing premature deaths by one third in men by 2030, but will not achieve the same target in women until after 2040. The probability of dying prematurely from a NCD between the ages of 30 and 70 in Ireland is 8.7% for women and 11.9% for men.

With the exception of the USA, Iceland and Cyprus mortality from NCDs is generally declining in high-income countries but increasing in low-income and middle-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Policies that reduce tobacco use, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, and promote healthy diets and lifestyles are key to accelerating reductions in NCDs, alongside primary and specialist health care interventions. The cost of essential medicines, however, puts an enormous and long-term financial strain on health and household budgets in high, middle and low income countries.

The escalating costs of life-saving treatments are unaffordable in many low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of disease is greatest. While many factors conspire to reduce access to medicines for NCDs, market exclusivity in the pharmaceutical industry means that the patent holder can set the highest possible price for essential medicines, escalating the costs of essential drugs to prohibitive levels.

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