Workshop – Taiwan

YCEMP Workshop in East Asia Medical Student Conference 2016

Date : 27th – 28th January 2016

Venue : Taiwan

Participants : Regional Chairpersons of Asian Medical Students’ Association International

Hosts : Melisa Hsieh (Taiwan), Victoria Liu (Taiwan), Joey Wong (Hong Kong SAR), Sam Li (YCEMP commissioner)

Under the theme of “Medical Care in the Future”, the 29th East Asia Medical Student Conference held in Taipei received over 200 medical students from the Asia Pacific region who were engaged in an array of discussions about how innovations will revolutionize health care. The YCEMP was grateful for an opportunity to be present in this occasion by adding another dimension to the discussions – the fact that not all innovations are available for or affordable by the people who most need them.

We invited 16 Regional Chairpersons of AMSA International to our workshop as a side event during the conference. Participants were challenged to study three case examples – sofosbuvir, trastuzumab and rotavirus vaccines – and decide whether these medicines and vaccines should be included on the WHO and national essential medicines lists (EMLs).

Each medicine and vaccine is unique. The three case examples provided the opportunity to explore the different considerations in public reimbursement as well as barriers of access. Participants struggled with deciding whether to put sofobuvir and trastuzumab on the lists, due to the concerns of high price. This suggests that participants understood the role of the EMLs differently – some were unsure how putting a medicine on the list may ever affect affordability and accessibility.

The discussion on rotavirus vaccines was enriched by our guest speaker – Prof. YC Huang who provided his expert opinions based on his research experience in Taiwan. Both types of rotavirus vaccines were introduced to the market in 2006, and their efficacy was reaffirmed by WHO as well as by paediatricians in Taiwan. They are safe and proved to offer excellent protection against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis hospitalizations. However, the vaccines are still not available in the public sector in countries like Taiwan. Families who can afford them get their children vaccinated in the private sector, leading to concerns about equitable access – the richer kids tend to get protected. Barriers of access in the region are multi-factorial. One cannot deny that, because of the current profits, there may be resistance from the private practitioners against putting the vaccines universally available in public schemes. For Taiwan, one interesting phenomenon is that since the National Health Insurance covers over 99.7% of population, there is less concern regarding the affordability of hospitalization and thus the effect of rotavirus gastroenteritis is often overlooked by parents and policy-makers. Improving access to rotavirus vaccine therefore will need to emphasize on the principle of preventative care, as well as the potential cost-effectiveness especially at lower available prices.

Near the end of the workshop, discussion was brought to more upstream – the flaws in the current global research and development (R&D) financing. It was a new perspective for many of the participants and indeed challenging in terms of what future health professionals could do to urge for positive change.

Not often do students, especially from the Asia-Pacific region, get the opportunity to discuss access to medicines, let alone alternative R&D models. There is very likely a lack of understanding on the purpose of WHO and national EMLs. We hope this workshop has sparked interest in the region and indeed look forward to more research and advocacy from the students.

Workshop-EAMSC01

(Above) Group photo with Prof. YC Huang and the 16 brilliant medical student leaders from Australia, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Hope to work with you all in the near future!

Acknowledgements

  • AMSA International
  • Motahareh (Nikoo) Akhoondi Nasab (YCEMP commissioner)
  • Arwin Timmermans (YCEMP secretariat)
  • Prof. Yhu-Chering Huang (Head, Pediatric Research Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital)
  • Prof. Tony Nelson (Clinical Professional Consultant, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, the Chinese University of Hong Kong)

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