LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Europe needs to spend on drugs for the poor
By Dorette Corbey
Financial Times; Jul 08, 2002

Sir, The international community gathers in Barcelona this week to discuss
how to fight the global Aids epidemic. Conferences such as these painfully
reveal that poor countries largely depend on policies made in the European
Union and other wealthy places for access to essential medicines. Combating
severe health crises in less developed countries will require public

Although the European Commission is investing more into global Aids
treatment, the amount is largely insufficient to meet the $8bn that Kofi
Annan, the UN secretary-general, says is needed to fight Aids effectively.

But the Commission should not only invest more in treatment of patients with
currently available medicines; it should also develop an entirely new,
needs-based research and development strategy. The market has clearly failed
to develop effective, easy-to-use and inexpensive drugs to prevent or cure
poverty-related diseases such as Aids, malaria, TB and leishmaniasis.
Therefore the EC should show commitment by collaborating with the best
experts from around the world, including the pharmaceuticals industry, to
develop the medicines that are needed so badly in developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals markets are highly profitable but profits will not cure the
60m patients now infected with HIV/Aids. Meanwhile, expenditures on
medicines are rising within the EU - despite the lack of real innovation.
Prices vary from country to country and are still a result of national
negotiations. Joint consultations at a European level will bring public
authorities into the position to encourage the industry to invest in
neglected diseases in poor countries or negotiate research and development

If it only had the commitment to show public leadership and the willingness
seriously to invest in developing badly needed drugs, the Commission could
lead in the fight against the worst global epidemic since the Spanish
Plague. We do have the money in Europe; we just need to spend it right (and
start spending it now).

Dorette Corbey
European Parliament
Brussels, Belgium

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