Drug prices have increased in the past five years despite a
commitment by the World Trade Organisation's 149 members to make
them more accessible to the world's poor, the charity Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF) said on Tuesday.
MSF said in a statement that newer HIV medicines recommended by
the World Health Organization (WHO) can cost up to 50 times more
than the cheapest first-line treatments, even when they are
available in poor countries.
Call for more generics
The group called for a boost to the production and availability
of generic drugs - which are cheaper because they are no longer
covered by patent protection - to treat major diseases.
Countries should make more use of the options available under
part of the WTO deal agreed at Doha, Qatar in 2001, known as the
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), MSF
TRIPS rules grant poor nations affected by diseases such as
HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis a temporary exemption from
international laws protecting intellectual property rights.
It enables them to buy cheaper generic drugs from pharmaceutical
companies in countries such as Brazil and India.
MSF said further reform to intellectual property rights was
needed to ensure generic producers could keep pace with newer and
more sophisticated treatments being developed by pharmaceutical
Competition helped cut prices
With Aids, fierce generic competition has helped cut prices for
first-line drug treatment by 99 percent to 130 dollars per patient
from 10 000 dollars since 2000, MSF found.
However, prices for second-line drugs, which patients need as
their treatment progresses, remain high, MSF said.
It blamed growing demand for patents on newer drugs by
pharmaceutical giants in key generic-producing nations such as
India. That could reduce competition from generics and dilute their
impact on the market, the group cautioned.
Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of MSF's Campaign for Access
to Essential Medicines, said that while Doha enabled countries to
import medicines, it would have little impact if only expensive
non-generic products were on the market.
He called on countries where established pharmaceutical
producers are based to allow more generic production and exports of
"If this doesn't happen we'll be back where we started in no
time because treatment will become unaffordable again," he warned. – (Sapa-AFP)
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