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Drugs for all

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 01 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:0811392
  1. Ohad Oren, fourth year medical student1,
  2. Norberto Krivoy, director clinical, pharmacology instituteclinical associate professor1
  1. 1Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

Drug companies largely ignore poor countries, report Ohad Oren and Norberto Krivoy

In many poor countries economic and social factors combine to prevent patients' access to essential drugs. And attempts to lessen the crisis have largely not helped. In May the World Health Organization developed a set of strategies to combat the problem. They focus on improving research and development for drugs for diseases that have been underfunded and to improve access to existing drugs. WHO hopes that this will encourage “innovation plus access” for diseases prevalent in the developing world, two ideas that have often been seen to work against each other.1 The WHO assembly has agreed to penalise anticompetitive practices surrounding drug patents (box) and to attract research and development by giving financial incentives.1 WHO wants all member states to contribute to the development of new drugs, scaled according to their country's wealth. Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, praised the initiative as “a major breakthrough for public health that will benefit many millions of people for many years to come.”2

Challenges for drug companies

Drug companies face many obstacles in the development and manufacture of a drug. The research and development process is lengthy and costly. Typical spending for a single successful drug is $800m (£460m; €600m).34 For every drug that reaches the market about 7000 compounds are tested in preclinical trials, and …

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