New book! Human Rights and Drug Control: Access to Controlled Essential Medicines in Resource-Constrained Countries

By Marie Elske Gispen, University of Groningen, m.e.c.gispen(at)

Globally, millions of people suffer health and socio-economic related problems due to the unavailability of controlled essential medicines such as morphine for pain treatment, which leaves them in disabling and sometimes degrading situations. Controlled essential medicines are medicines included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, and whose active substance is listed under the international drug-control treaties. Their availability and accessibility therefore fall within the remit of both human rights and international drug-control law. Even though the unavailability of controlled essential medicines is generally caused by a multifaceted and complex interplay of factors, the current international drug-control framework paradoxically hinders rather than fosters the access to medicines.

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By Dean M. Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA,

As I write this, the inauguration of a new U.S. president will be held in a few days. Many people outside the United States might experience the adverse consequences that the U.S. election is likely to have on global public health. At the European Public Health Conference in Vienna shortly after the election, one of the speakers, David Stuckler, described the new U.S. president as a “direct threat to public health.”[1]

In the long run, the political situation in the U.S. will change again. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back to place a higher priority on access to care and global health. But what is likely to happen in the meantime?

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Syria: 2016 was the most dangerous year for health workers

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has released a new report on the health situation in Syria. Titled The Failure of UN Security Council Resolution 2286 in Preventing Attacks on Healthcare in Syria, this report documents 172 attacks on medical facilities and personnel from June through December 2016, using first-hand testimony and photo documentation from physicians and health workers in Syria.

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Global Health Week January 2017


Between 12 and 16 January 2017 the Learning Community Global Health of UMCG organises for students, staff and interested professionals a series of presentations of interest for people who want to know more about developments in global health. We are also happy that the new professor Global Reproductive Health, Prof Jelle Stekelenburg, will give his inaugural lecture this week.

Date: 12 January 2017

Time: 18:00 – 20:00 hrs
Location: Boeringzaal, 3211.0004, UMCG, A.Deusinglaan 1, Groningen. Title: Lessons learned from the Ebola Crisis Global Health Security Agenda, Language: English
Hosted by: LC Global Health, UMCG and Global Health Law Groningen Admission: Free

Two years ago the Ebola crisis in West Africa shocked the world. The disease, which until then only occurred in small remote villages in rural Africa, caused havoc in three countries and disrupted the health system, the social life and even the economy of Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia.

Only when the disease threatened to spread to Europe and Northern America large- scale disease control activities took off and brought the epidemic under control. In response, further measures are being discussed to control the spread of diseases from animals to humans and to get a better grip on surveillance and control of communicable diseases. The Global Health Security Agenda now tries to unite the world in this effort. In order to bring into being a feasible and acceptable programme, we need to draw lessons from the Ebola crisis and from the rebuilding of the health structure in the affected countries. In this we need to consider the human rights and the perspective of the population, holding the key for effective control of communicable diseases.

Speaker 1: Dr Ger Steenbergen, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ghana: Lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, call for global solidarity to deal with new health threats of pandemic infectious diseases.
Speaker 2: Dr Ankie van den Broek, Royal Tropical Institute Amsterdam: Building resilient health systems after the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and Guinea Conacry. Speaker 3: Prof Brigit Toebes, Global Health Law Groningen, RUG: human rights perspective in Global Health Security

Panel discussion:
Panel moderator: Dr Jaap Koot, dean LC Global Health, UMCG
Panelists: Dr Ger Steenbergen, Dr Ankie van den Broek, Prof Brigit Toebes, Prof Hans Hogerzeil, prof. Global Health, UMCG

Focus of the discussion:
– Is the Global Health Security Agenda a good way to develop resilient health systems for the people and build international collaboration to control infectious diseases?

– Can universities contribute to strengthening the process of the Global Health Security Agenda?

Further reading:

Date: 13 January 2017

Time: 9:00 hrs – 15:30 hrs
Location: Keuningzaal in OWI building, UMCG, A.Deusinglaan 1, Groningen Title: Global Health Symposium “Alternative medicine: Complementary or Contradictory?”
Language: English
Hosted by: LC Global Health, UMCG
Admission: Only for students LC Global Health and GH staff

In their career medical doctors will meet many patients who use traditional, complementary or alternative medical treatments. Sometimes, these types of treatment are the primary choice of patients. In most Western countries the relations between scientific “regular” medicine and “alternative” medicine are tense, while in Asian countries there is more acceptance of different views and scientific concepts. In Africa it is more a parallel system, co-existing without much interaction.

For medical students in Global Health it is important to understand the different viewpoints and legal and regulatory aspects.
Plenary speakers and workshop moderators will inform the students and will invite them to go into debate about the issues in alternative medicine.

Date: 16 January 2017

Time: 16:00 hrs – 18:00 hrs
Location: Hall 3214.0081 in OWI building, UMCG, A.Deusinglaan 1, Groningen Title: Groningen Launch of the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines Subtitle: Essential Medicines for the 21st Century
Language: English
Hosted by: LC Global Health, UMCG
Admission: Free

Access to medicines used to be a problem of low- and middle-income countries. But increasingly it becomes a global problem. New medicines are invented, but the prices are not affordable for many patients and governments are not always able to willing to pay the price set by pharmaceutical companies. But also for common diseases medicines are not available (anymore) because they are no longer interesting for producers. What is absolutely necessary for the health of the people, for treatment of common diseases? This difficult technical, economical and ethical dilemma needs to be solved.


16.00 – 16.05: Jaap Koot, Dean LC Global Health: Opening and Introduction
16.05 – 16.25: Prof Dr Hans V Hogerzeil (Co-Chair, Lancet Commission): Introduction, short summary of the findings of the Lancet Commission (e.g. financing medicines for the poor; high medicines prices)
16.25 – 16.35: Nikita de Jong, (MB/IBMG, Groningen; member of UAEM): Global overview of national lists of essential medicines and national medicines policies
16.35 – 17.00: Interactive discussion, moderated by Jaap Koot

17.00 – 17.20: Ellen ‘t Hoen, LLM (Lancet Commissioner): Developing missing essential medicines: Restoring the balance between private intellectual property and public health. (Section 5 of the Lancet Commission Report)
17.20 – 17.45: Comments by UAEM, Interactive discussion and identification of next steps, moderated by Jaap Koot
19.45: Closure

Further reading: policies/

Date: 17 January 2017

Time: 16:15 hrs – 17:15 hrs
Location: Aula, Academie Building, Broerstraat 5, Groningen Title: Maternal health, a

Title: Maternal health, a left right, Inaugural Lecture Language: English
Hosted by: RUG and UMCG
Admission: Free

Speaker: Prof Jelle Stekelenburg, Professor of international aspects of reproductive health, in particular safe motherhood at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, appointed by the Netherlands Society for Tropical Medicine and International Health

Professor Stekelenburg is working as gynaecologist in Medical Centre Leeuwarden and since one year attached to the UMCG as professor. He is active in the Learning Community Global Health and in the Department of Health Sciences in education and research in global reproductive health.

The Right to Health: A Human Rights Perspective with a Case Study on Greece

By Elisavet Athanasia Alexiadou, Universiteit Leiden,,

The PhD research examines the national implementation of the right to health with a particular focus on Greece. For this reason, the research builds upon two interconnected parts, Part I and Part II. Part I seeks to identify the primary standards deriving from the right to health on the basis of human rights law by employing evidence from various sources: The UN, Council of Europe and human rights doctrine. Part II is a case study examining the Greek context relating to the right to health whilst considering the particular challenges within Greece such as, economic austerity. Continue reading

NRC Opiniestuk: Overheid, doorbreek het monopolie van de farmaceut

Three of our GHLG members,  Ellen ’t Hoen, Brigit Toebes and Hans Hogerzeil, published an opinion piece in the Dutch newspaper NRC: Find a copy of the full text below (in Dutch)

De overheid moet actief ingrijpen om nieuwe geneesmiddelen betaalbaar te maken, schrijven Ellen ‘t Hoen cum suis. Maak gebruik van dwanglicenties en beloon een bedrijf als het een noodzakelijk geneesmiddel (bijvoorbeeld antibiotica) ontwikkelt.

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