For Immediate Release
Crisis of Poor Quality Medicines Being Used as an Excuse to Push Up Prices for Poor
countries is being used by rich countries as an excuse to tighten
intellectual property rules, boosting the profits of large
pharmaceutical companies while making it harder for poor people to get
access to the medicines they need, according to a report published today
by international agency Oxfam.
Eye on the Ball, launched at a high-level conference hosted by
INTERPOL and the World Intellectual Property Organization in Paris,
argues that improved regulation of medicines by poor countries, not
enforcement of intellectual property rules, is the best way to ensure
safe, effective, quality medicines.
More than 2 billion people lack regular access to affordable and quality medicines.
The World Health Organization estimates that 30 per cent of countries
have no functioning drug regulatory authorities. While there is no
conclusive data regarding the prevalence of substandard and falsified
medicines in the developing world, studies indicate that in some
countries as much as 44 per cent of certain types of medicines, such as
anti-malarials, are substandard.
Rich countries express concern about this real threat to public
health, but they propose actions that will do little to address this
problem. Specifically, they propose the enactment in poor countries of
expanded intellectual property rules to reduce the availability of
counterfeit products that criminally infringe trademarks. Yet
anti-counterfeit measures are limited in scope and fail to address the
broader public health problem of substandard and falsified medicines
which pose a danger to public health but do not necessarily infringe
intellectual property rights. Worse, new anti-counterfeit measures will
stifle the production of and trade in low-cost generic medicines.
Invest in better drug regulation - not anti-counterfeit measures
Oxfam is calling on rich countries to abandon their focus on expanded
intellectual property protection and instead provide funds to support
drug regulation in poor countries.
Rohit Malpani, Oxfam senior policy adviser, said: "Poor countries are
facing a crisis of substandard and falsified medicines that can harm or
even kill those who take them.
"Yet rather than help poor countries address the problem to ensure
safe, effective and quality medicines for all, rich countries are
putting commercial interests ahead of public health in these countries.
"The European Union and the United States continue to focus almost
exclusively on eliminating counterfeit medicines which form only a small
part of this public health problem - but which are a serious concern
for their multinational companies. They have used the crisis in medicine
quality in developing countries as an excuse to push for new
intellectual property rules that will boost the profits of
pharmaceutical giants at the expense of affordable medicines for the
ACTA and IMPACT among harmful initiatives
The European Union is especially culpable of pushing for stricter
levels of IP protection that would limit access to medicines. In many
cases, these efforts have been supported - both tacitly and overtly - by
the multinational pharmaceutical industry.
The report highlights several of these harmful initiatives, including
the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, industry pressure to change
intellectual property laws in Kenya and Thailand, and continuing
negotiation of new anti-counterfeit measures at the World Health
Organization through an initiative known as IMPACT.
Malpani said: "At a time when poor countries struggle to ensure that
their populations can get affordable, quality medicines it is outrageous
that rich countries and drug companies are pushing ‘solutions' that
will do more harm than good to patients and public health. It is
critical that poor countries ignore rich-country pressure, and focus
instead on solutions that will ensure both quality and affordability of
medicines. While poor countries must continue to fight against efforts
to introduce new intellectual property rules, they must also find ways
to both invest in, and attract investments to create, well-functioning
drug regulatory authorities."
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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.