Access to affordable medicines and trade policies
The Minister of Health of South Africa, Dr. Tsabalala Msimang
The Minister of Health of Belgium and president of the European Union Health
Council, Ms. Magda Aelvoet
26 October 2001
IP and Healthcare
CPT Page on Doha Ministerial
- We are concerned that medicines remain largely unaffordable to the
majority of people living in countries from the South where the burden of
disease is greatest. The criteria for access to drugs should not only depend
on income but must also seriously consider need and burden of disease.
- It is not enough for the drug industry to practice cherry-picking or
choose a few drugs which they will offer at a discount or as donations to
countries from the South, such as selected drugs against HIV, TB or malaria.
All essential drugs should be accessible and affordable to those in need.
- Whilst we respect the investments made by the pharmaceutical industry in
the development of new drugs, we advocate for a balance between
profit-making and access to affordable drugs, in a manner that ensures that
public health interests remain paramount and above profits.
- We must reverse the situation where only 10% of research and development
on new drugs is spent on new drugs that are common in countries from the
South, and yet 90% of the burden of disease is found in countries from the
South. We must provide a package of incentives to reverse this situation and
build technological capacity in countries from the South. We must ensure
that the industry does invest in the search for new drugs against diseases
that are found in countries from the South.
- Access to affordable drugs must go hand in hand with the strengthening of
national health systems in countries from the South. The availability of
drugs at affordable prices should be ensured, amongst others, by good
procurement, distribution and logistical systems. This must guarantee
universal access to basic health care.
- The TRIPS agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) of the
WTO allows developing countries to use various flexible clauses, albeit in a
limited nature, within this agreement to ensure access to affordable
medicines. But the pharmaceutical industry continues to intimidate and
penalize those countries that explore the use of these legitimate clauses
that are permitted within the TRIPS agreement.
- We support the legitimate strategies that are available to countries from
the South to use in order to increase access to affordable medicines. These
include: generic substitution; compulsory and voluntary licensing; parallel
importation; international tendering or bulk purchasing of medicines; price
control; good dispensing practices; and the elimination of variables that
contribute towards price escalation; etc. We consider that there are already
enough measures at hand to prevent the reimportation of such cheaper
medicines into industrialized countries.
- Because it is a crime against humanity for poor people to die because
lifesaving medicines are too expensive, the Ministers of Health, therefore,
strongly urge their Colleagues, the Ministers of Trade, to reach an
agreement in Doha (Qatar) next month on the necessary revision of the
application of the TRIPS Agreement. This must allow countries from the South
to gain better access to affordable medicines to ensure universal health
care is not a luxury but a human right.