Poor world health and rich world wealth

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7287.629 (Published 17 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:629

Commercial companies alone can't solve the health problems of developing countries

  1. David Taylor, professor of pharmaceutical and public health policy
  1. School of Pharmacy, University of London, London WC1N 1AX

    News p 635

    Oxfam and allied aid organisations have recently accused the international pharmaceutical industry of using its influence to maintain a worldwide system of intellectual property law and enforcement that is now denying the world's poor access to essential medicines and blocking progress towards health for all.1 Enabling all sections of the global population to gain the extended life expectancy enjoyed in developed countries is one of the world's fundamental challenges.2 But it is not clear that doing away with legitimate intellectual property rights will aid this process in the long term, or that individual companies can carry a responsibility that properly belongs to governments and peoples.

    The concern of Oxfam and others has been made acute by the HIV-AIDS pandemic in regions where the price of patent protected antiretroviral drugs and drugs for opportunistic infections makes them unaffordable to all but a privileged few. Health gains made in previous decades are being lost. The pharmaceutical industry's critics also blame it for inadequate research investment in diseases relevant to the health of the world's poor. Oxfam's report Dare to Lead urges the newly formed Anglo-US company GlaxoSmithKline to play a central role …

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