How the Uruguayan judiciary shapes access to high-priced medicines : a critique through the right to health lens
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Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Katrina Perehudoff, José Castela Forte
Uruguay has witnessed an ever-increasing number of domestic court claims for high-priced medicines despite its comprehensive universal coverage of pharmaceuticals. In response to the current national debate and development of domestic legislation concerning high-priced medicines, we review whether Uruguayan courts adequately interpret the state's core obligations to provide essential medicines and ensure non-discriminatory access in line with the right to health in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Using a sample of 42 amparo claims for the reimbursement of medicines in 2015, we found that the circuits of appeal fail to offer predictable legal argumentation, including for nearly identical cases. Moreover, the judiciary does not provide an interpretation of state obligations that is consistently aligned with the right to health in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These findings illustrate that medicines litigation in Uruguay offers relief for some individual claims but may exacerbate systemic inequalities by failing to address the structural problems behind high medicines prices. We recommend that the judiciary adopt a consistent standard for assessing state action to realize the right to health within its available resources. Moreover, the legislature should address the need for medicines price control and offer a harmonized interpretation of the right to health. These transformations can increase the transparency and predictability of Uruguay's health and legal systems for patients and communities.
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