• By: OLM Staff

Canadian Pharmaceutical Companies Take Innovative Approach in Response to United Nations Report to Stop AIDS in Africa

The United Nations says that access to medicine could save 10 million lives a year globally and is recommending that drug makers support research for neglected diseases and cut prices for medicines in poorer countries. Paul Hunt, an independent UN expert on the right to health, estimates that two billion people worldwide cannot get the essential drugs they need, and that most of these people are in Africa.

In 50 recommendations released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, global drug makers are urged to charge less for medicines in poorer markets and allow developing states more flexibility in accessing cheaper generics. “It is time to identify what pharmaceutical companies should do to help realize the human right to medicine. How can we expect pharmaceutical companies to respect human rights if we fail to explain what they’re expected to do?,” Hunt asks.

Canada’s pharmaceutical and research companies have started to step up to the plate to improve access to medicine for patients suffering from Aids in Africa. Russell Williams, president of RX&D – Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies in Ottawa said: “Global innovative pharmaceutical companies are working with the United Nations to deliver the Accelerated Access Initiative.” According to Williams: “The number of Africans receiving Aids medication underthis initiative has increased by more than 120 per cent over the past two years and we have initiated 17 separate programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids.”

The UN report says that the price of medicine in a low-income country should be less than the price of the same or equivalent medicine in a middle-income country, which should be less than the price of the same or equivalent medicine in a high-income country.” The report noted that: “15 per cent of the global population consumes more than 90 per cent of the world’s pharmaceuticals. On patents, one of the most contentious issues in public health, the United Nations report calls on all global pharmaceutical companies to ease off lobbying for stricter patent protection in poorer states.” The company should not extend patent duration, file patents for new indications for existing medicines, in low-income and middle-income countries,” the guidelines read. Williams did not outline any measures that would require companies to follow the recommendations, but said he would seek feedback from the pharmaceutical industry and others on his guidelines, to be finalized in 2008. The Canadian Pharmaceutical Industry has given several public indications that companies are prepared to do more to assist in Africa.