The UK can play a leading role in helping tackling the diseases of the developing world - but will fail unless long-term, sustainable goals are set and resources from across the globe and from many sectors of society are mobilised. This was the warning from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today, in its response to a consultation by the Department for International Development (DFID).
"The UK government is leading the way in engaging with the problems of health in the developing world. We need to ensure that these efforts get the best possible results, short-term programmes that fail to build long-term healthcare capabilities are ultimately misguided," said ABPI Director General, Dr Richard Barker. "Between government, NGOs and private businesses, we must focus on long-term practical actions that leave lasting improvements and infrastructure."
The pharmaceutical industry is already active in programmes to provide low-cost and free treatment to the world's poorest communities - recent research shows that, since 2000, global pharmaceutical companies have invested more than £2.45 billion in providing health interventions in the developing world.
But the ABPI response points out the "uncomfortable reality" that the annual cost of addressing the health priorities of low-income and developing countries runs into many tens of billions of pounds: HIV/AIDS treatment needs alone were recently estimated at more than £13 billion per year. These resources, says the ABPI, are way beyond anything that companies, or even governments of prosperous countries like the UK, can hope to muster alone.
In its response to DFID's Consultation on Future Health Strategy the ABPI states that the department has a vital role to play in securing maximum benefit from public/private partnerships, one of the most successful approaches to developing world health issues. The UK is also well placed through historical, diplomatic and cultural links to work with countries that can be 'proving grounds' for more integrated approaches to health systems development, under strong local leadership. The UK also offers strong public research organisations working alongside UK-based companies to mount R&D and healthcare programmes that are well-researched and systematic, with measurable results.
"It is very clear that the pharmaceutical industry by itself cannot ensure poor patients receive the medicines they need, but we do accept that we have a vital role to play within this shared responsibility," said Dr Barker. "The world community, led by the most developed economies, must commit and deliver greater resources to more holistic solutions. Provision of medicines is only one part of this - better sanitation, more and better paid health workers, and product supply lines are all vital and these stand outside the competence of pharmaceutical companies to deliver."
The ABPI also emphasises that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to assisting developing countries. The nature of problems facing countries at different stages of development is diverse - efforts must be flexible enough to recognise this.
A copy of the ABPI response to DFID consultation on Future Health Strategy is available from ABPI press office upon request.
More detail on efforts by pharmaceutical companies in the developing world can be found in the new report Partnerships to build healthier societies in the developing world by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). It may be downloaded from their website: www.ifpma.org
Hard copies are also available from ABPI press office
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410