Theft, resale of drugs
to be curbed
01 Nov 2002
The European Commission has announced plans to stop
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
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 EU wants to set an example with a practical
means of helping poorer countries struggling with public
health issues," Pascal Lamy, the French trade
"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
for developing countries. -- (c) Guardian Newspapers