The need for preventive drugs and vaccines in global cancer

A small fraction of the industrys revenues should be

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A small fraction of the industry’s revenues should be set aside for social purposes. Such funds might be then used to subsidise HIV treatment in sub- Saharan Africa, or the purchase of drugs by the ones in need. The recent decision of some compa- nies to cut the price of HIV drugs in Africa was a good initiative but one of small impact. Drug companies should also allow exceptions to patent restrictions that currently prevent the poor coun- tries from manufacturing generic drugs for huma- nitarian purposes, or importing drugs from the countries where they can be obtained most eco- nomically. The developing country governments and third-world pharmaceutical industries argue that poor nations should be allowed to use clauses in world trade treaties that let countries facing health emergencies void the patents on life-saving drugs and make their own low-cost generic ver- sions. Production of less expensive drugs in developing countries Some two years ago, Brazil requested the world health authorities to set up a database of prices of all anti-AIDS drugs. Brazil made its request as a surprise amendment to a resolution before World Health Assembly (WHA) 2000, the annual meeting of all the world’s health ministers in Geneva. This database would make it easier to import cheaper drugs to poor countries without their own drug industries. The proposal has upset the world’s large pharmaceutical companies because it would have to include drugs made in countries such as Brazil, India and Thailand, whose laws disregard many drug patents. Companies in these countries, and in some others, make generic versions of the most important and most expensive AIDS drugs and sell them for cents per dose. The WHA’s annual meeting in May 2001 devoted substantial attention to lack of access to essential drugs, which has become acute in light of the devastating human and economic impact of HIV/ AIDS in many countries. WHA adopted a resolu- tion (WHO’s Medicines Strategy, 54.11) which noted that `the impact of international trade agreements on access to, or local manufacturing of, essential drugs and on the development of new drugs needs to be further evaluated’. It also requested the Director General of WHO to `en- hance efforts to study and report on existing and future health implications of international trade agreements in close collaboration with relevant intergovernmental organizations’. Thereafter, the WTO has had discussions on intellectual property and access to medicines. A declaration adopted by the WTO ministers by consensus in November 2001, emphasized that the TRIPS (Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health and reaffirms the right of members to use, to the full, the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, which provide flexibility for this purpose. This declaration makes it clear that the TRIPS Agreement should be interpreted and implemented in a manner suppor-
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