The World Trade Organisation deal on generic medicines for developing nations is to be warmly welcomed - but its effect on sick people in those countries remains to be seen, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said today.
The Essential Drugs List of the World Health Organisation (WHO) contains only three per cent of medicines that are still protected by patent. And even then, the poorest countries of the world still cannot afford the lowest priced generic medicines.
"This agreement demonstrates a general willingness to look at solutions for the humanitarian problems caused by ill health," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI. "However, it would be quite wrong to think that it provides a complete solution.
"Not only are there very few medicines still in patent that are deemed essential by the WHO, but the sad fact is that the world's poorest countries cannot afford even the cheapest medicines - let alone the healthcare infrastructure. That is why the pharmaceutical industry has long supported the concept of co-operative arrangements with national governments, international organisations and non-governmental bodies as the way to provide effective help where it is most needed."
However, the deal reached in advance of the Cancun conference shows that the WTO can respond flexibly and pragmatically to the concerns of developing countries and contribute to the fight to combat killer diseases in the developing world.
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