MSF demands from G8 action to increase access to medicines

Press release, Genoa, 19 July 2001 - On Friday 20th July, the G8 and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will announce the establishment of a Global Health Fund. Plans for such a fund have been discussed since the last G8 meeting in Okinawa, but until this day, the exact financial contributions to the fund as well as a policy on how the fund will be used remain unclear. The humanitarian medical agency, Médecins Sans Fronti`res (MSF) demands that any extra funding that is being made available be used to purchase the most affordable medicines and other health commodities. Without a deliberate strategy to ensure that funding can be used to purchase from generic producers, including those in the south, the fund will be mainly a subsidy to the European and American drug industries. In an increasingly global economy access to pharmaceuticals is unevenly distributed. Developing countries, where 75% of the world population lives, account for less than 10% of the global pharmaceutical market. One-third of the world population does not have access to the most basic medicines and in the poorest areas of Africa and Asia this figure rises to one-half. Fourteen million people die of infectious and parasitic diseases every year. Of these, 90% live in developing countries. Many of the victims of these diseases die because they have no access to the medicines they need. Medicines that are vital for the survival of millions are too expensive, no longer produced or will never see the light because research and development for drugs for tropical diseases has come to a standstill because the people suffering from these diseases do not represent a profitable market. "The health needs of millions of people in developing countries are ignored because in the global market economically they do not exist," says Ellen t'Hoen of the MSF Access to Medicines Campaign. "We are here at the G8 summit to demand that the governments of the richest countries of the world take note of the needs of the millions of people living in developing countries and put peoples lives over profits of the US and Europe based industry. An equitable pricing system and restarting research and development for neglected diseases are a key part of improving access to life-saving medicines in the developing world".