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Patents still blocking drugs for poor.

Written by Jane Coyle on 02 January 2007

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Oxfam claims poor people are dying needlessly because global pharmaceutical giants continue to monopolise drugs for diseases like cancer and Aids. 

Five years ago the “Doha Declaration” pledged to put health before profits. It allowed for developing countries to access generic versions of patented drugs, which are significantly cheaper under the World Trade Organisation rules (TRIPS). Oxfam believes  conditions in developing countries have become significantly worse since 2001. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 74% of Aids medicine is still under a monopoly. Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign said: “global health statistic’s are grim but the US continues to negotiate trade deals with even stricter rules that limit how a country can use public health safeguards.”

EU countries are accused of similar practices. She cites the example of Swiss company, Novartis.  They produce a generic anti cancer drug, Glivec. They are trying to repeal a law which allows an Indian company to make a similar generic drug at £1,400 a year per patient rather than £14,000, which its drug would cost. Ms Charveriat said: “If Novartis is successful, it could jeopardise India’s generic export industry. India is the leading supplier of inexpensive generic medicines to developing countries, with approximately 67% of its exports going to developing countries.”

A similar battle is ongoing between US drug company Pfizer which produces the heart disease drug, Norvasc and the Philippine Government which has developed its own patented version, almost 90% cheaper.

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