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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 11:17 GMT
Essential drugs: Out of reach for Africa?
The international aid group, Oxfam, has accused the global pharmaceutical industry and western governments of waging what it calls an undeclared drugs war against the world's poorest countries.
The organisation says developing countries must be allowed to make cheap copies of drugs to treat diseases such as Aids, respiratory tract infections and childhood diarrhoea.
Yet the companies say that they need to recoup the millions they have paid in research and development in order to produce better drugs in the future. Are they right?
Should Africans be able to get life-saving drugs at the cheapest price possible?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Do statistics mean anything to these drug companies? Would they rather have many more poor people die than lose a few million dollars ? It is disgusting to know that big businesses place profit before human life. As we waste more time debating this issue more are dying who could have been saved.
Pharmaceutical companies and Western governments do not have any obligation to take care of us Africans. Our leaders do not respect their own elite, as they look on them as a threat. Universities, places for research, have been turned into political establishments. Unless we Africans learn to discover our own potential and also to respect ourselves we shall never be in position to even produce cheap copies of the drugs that others have invented.
UE, Nigeria/ UK
Brazil is making cheap drugs to prolong the lives of its sick citizens including Aids patients. The developing countries including Africa should follow Brazil and make affordable drugs available to their citizen if they have the capacity to do so.
The big pharmaceutical companies are indifferent to the suffering of the poor and the developing countries should not expect much from them.
Rick Freeman, USA
Many people don't realise that although the drug companies wish to protect their intellectual property rights, many of the ingredients used for the drugs are sourced from developing countries which still have rich and diverse natural habitats. We never hear of the developing countries receiving payment or compensation for these ingredients, yet the pharmaceutical firms can use them to produce a drug to sell back to those countries.
If the political and moral will existed the world's nations could divert a small percentage of wealth towards some form of international drug insurance plan [perhaps administered by the UN} that could purchase and distribute these pharmaceuticals freely to those in the greatest need. So where is the will?
How much money do pharmaceutical companies make out of sales in Africa? Not much, I would image. Despite the need for medicines in Africa most of the companies profits would come from sales in the West where people can afford the drugs. Therefore, what's the economic harm to the big pharmaceutical companies in allowing African countries to make cheap copies of necessary drugs for domestic sale? It wouldn't cause great damage to their bottom line and would be humane.
Comments like those given by Tony Costello are moronic to say the least. Africa is not asking the West for handouts, we are asking them to be humane. Yes they are in business for the purpose of profit but does Tony Costello forget that the West is what it is because of Africa (your companies own our diamonds, gold etc)? You had Africans fighting in your little tribal war (2nd World War) and yet you cannot be humane enough to assist a dying continent with drugs which are a necessity.
The pharmaceutical companies must be allowed to make money. After all, they are privately owned for-profit companies. What Africans need is to get rid of their corrupt leaders first and to educate their own people.
Jaafar Williams, Nigeria
The poverty that is threatening to cripple humanity in the twenty first century may not be disease or hunger after all, but the lack of public will to address human suffering and social welfare in our world. Tell the drug companies to rise above the shadows of the bottom line (apathy) and start looking at the "top line" (fulfilment).
Drugs should be made available to the poor. However, if governments stopped wasting money on unnecessary wars and other 'events', more money would be available to help them.
Anekeya Alwanga, Kenya
Africa needs a lot of capital injection for it to be able to stand on its feet. The major problems of most African countries are poverty and diseases and UN statistics show that a majority of Africans live below the poverty line. It would therefore be justifiable if Africans are provided with life saving drugs because the fact still remains that a majority of them would not be able to afford the expensive drugs.
Most if not all the Pharmaceutical Companies are
in business to make money.
They understand that there is a huge demand for medicine in
Africa, but they know there is no money and as a result their priority is
focused some where else.
The bottom line of their
financial statements is watched very carefully and
they don't want to be viewed as a charity organization but
as a business to make money. This may sound harsh but that's the
reality many people don't understand.
If Africa cannot be given an opportunity or a free deal to afford these drugs, then the whole African nation will be wiped out by this world enemy no.1.
Economically, most of these nations are less developed. Their per capita incomes are among the lowest in the world. I think they deserve cheap drugs to survive. If the drug manufacturers put profit ahead of human suffering, this is pathetic, immoral and outrageous.
This sounds like the West being asked for another handout. Who is going to pay for the development costs of these drugs if Africa gets them on the cheap? Why are African governments not spending money on research instead of armies?
12 Feb 01 | Health
Drugs firms 'waging war' on poor
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