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Drug monopoly

America accused of bullying developing countries with monopoly pharmaceutical prices, profiteering schemes

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: drug monopoly, drug prices, drug manufacturers


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(NewsTarget) International anti-poverty non-profit Oxfam claims that poor people are dying needlessly because multinational pharmaceutical giants are monopolizing drugs for deadly diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

The charity also claimed that rich countries -- in particular the United States -- are "bullying" developing countries in order to protect their pharmaceutical products, and their "selfish" protectionist policies are contrary to their promise to improve public health in developing countries.

The promise, known as the 2001 Doha Declaration, stated that companies would put health before profits and allow developing countries to obtain cheaper, generic versions of patented drugs under the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

However, since the declaration was made, Oxfam claims the situation has become much worse. A World Health Organization study found that 74 percent of AIDS medicine is monopolized, 77 percent of Africans do not have access to AIDS treatments, and essential medicines are unavailable to 30 percent of the world's population.

"(The promise made in the declaration) hasn't happened," said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign. "We've gone backwards. People are still suffering or dying needlessly.

"Global health statistics are grim but the U.S. continues to negotiate trade deals with even stricter rules that limit how a country can use public health safeguards," she said, adding that European Union countries are not much better. India had to fight Switzerland-based Novartis to produce a generic version of a drug similar to the companies anticancer pharmaceutical Glivec, Charveriat said. Novartis is currently trying to upend an Indian law that allows Indian companies to produce the generic drug at a cost of about $2,676 a year instead of the roughly $26,760 per year the patented version of the drug would cost.

"If Novartis is successful, it could jeopardize India's generic export industry," Charveriat said. "India is the world's leading supplier of inexpensive generic medicines to developing countries, with approximately 67 percent of its exports going to developing countries."

The Philippine government is engaged in a similar conflict with U.S pharmaceutical giant Pfizer over a generic version of its heart disease drug Norvasc. The Philippine government has developed its own patented version of the drug that is almost 90 percent less expensive.

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