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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

 

Theft, resale of drugs to be curbed

Date:     01 Nov 2002

The European Commission has announced plans to stop low-cost drugs intended for African countries being illegally resold for big profits in the West.

Under the proposal approved by the commission developing countries should be guaranteed access to cut-price HIV/Aids, TB and malaria medicines by special registration and labelling.

The manufacturers will be able to register them for sale at low prices in specified countries and use a logo identifying them as banned for resale in the EU.

The decision comes as evidence accumulates that shipments of cut-price Aids drugs destined for Africa have been intercepted, flown back to Europe and sold at vast profits.

 

The commission said it hoped its proposal, part of a broad poverty- 9reduction and health programme, would be approved by the 15 EU member states before the end of the year.

"The EU wants to set an example with a practical means of helping poorer countries struggling with public health issues," Pascal Lamy, the French trade commissioner, said.

"Vaccines and contraceptives have long been available at affordable prices. Now developed countries need to make an effort with other medicines."

Popular pressure has already forced some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies to slash the price of products sold in the Third World by up to 90%. But several have warned that they will cut research funding if illegal re-exports of cheap drugs damage their profits.

Brussels has drawn up a list of 72 poor countries eligible to benefit from the system. Most of them are in Africa and Asia.

To be listed medicines have to be made available at either 80% of the average factory price in OECD countries or at factory price plus 10%.

UN figures show that while more than 28-million people have HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan Africa, only 30 000 receive the treatments available in the West.

In a recent case, millions of euros worth of Combivir, a highly effective anti-retroviral drug, was hijacked en route to West Africa and diverted to The Netherlands and Germany, where it was sold at European prices.

 

Evidence of profiteering by unscrupulous European traders has shocked activists clamouring for more and cheaper Aids drugs for developing countries. -- (c) Guardian Newspapers 2002