Keeping Life Saving Drugs Cheap for the Poorest Countries
Developing nations around the world are disproportionately affected by disease, especially noncommunicable illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. The impact of these diseases is set to increase as the populations of these nations explode. With this increase comes the need for affordable medicines in order to save lives. This need could be jeopardized however by a growing discussion over intellectual property rights (TRIPS) for life-saving drugs.
Intellectual property rights are a huge factor in why drug costs can rise so quickly due to the intense competition between pharmaceutical companies. Until recently, all of the 49 countries deemed among the least developed (LDC’s) received medications from these companies at prices at guaranteed affordable rates. In order to keep costs at their current level, an extension of the TRIPS agreement (established in 1995) need to be worked out, otherwise millions of suffering people may lose access to life saving drugs.
According to UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, “An extension would allow the world’s poorest nations to ensure sustained access to medicines, build up viable technology bases, and manufacture or import the medicines they need.”
Currently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is working on an extension to the TRIPS agreement, which is set to expire in 2013. Beyond that point, individual countries will have to apply for a continuation of the extension as long as they retain their status as an LDC, or until another solution is arrived at.