1110 NEWS on MEDICINES and HEALTH - September - October 2011


Pharmaceutical Innovation, Patenting and Compulsory Licensing

Despite the decline in the discovery of new medicines, there is a significant proliferation of patents on products and processes that cover minor, incremental innovations. A study conducted in five developing countries - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India and South Africa - evidenced a significant proliferation of "evergreening" pharmaceutical patents that can block generic competition and thereby limit access to medicines. It also found that both the nature of pharmaceutical learning and innovation and the interest of public health are best served in a framework where rigorous standards of inventive step are used to grant patents. The analysis suggests that local firms in developing countries are better supported where patent protection for minor incremental innovations is not allowed. If patent applications were correctly scrutinized, there would be no need to have recourse to compulsory licenses.



Patents and the Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Summit at the UN

The 19-20 Septembre 2011, the United Nations held a High level meeting to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes, lung disease and cardiovascular disease. The debate centred on allowing countries, particularly the poorest nations, to use compulsory licenses to override patents and secure supplies of needed medicines. The issue revolved around intellectual property rights and access to drugs among the poor. There were also discussions on how governments can provide affordable access to treatments, especially in large countries with poor populations and limited means. This question of access to the latest medicines is a major issue in all countries, but mainly in developed countries



Price of medicines for non-communicable disease (NCD)

High medicine prices know no bounds - they affect all countries, all diseases, and all people. But the greatest price is paid by those who suffer from a chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma and who are forced to pay for medicines out-of-pocket.   Data shows that prices for NCDs are often high, treatments are not affordable for those on low wages, and availability is often abysmal especially in the public sector.  So while effective treatments for the majority of the global NCD burden exist, universal access remains out-of-reach.  Health Action International (HAI) called on delegates at the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs to refocus on the attainable goal of universal access to essential medicines as a core priority for the treatment of NCDs.http://www.haiweb.org/12092011/NCD


Access to Medicines Key to MDGs on Child Health

Despite the ratification by 194 countries of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, we are not there on the issue of Child Health. The UN reports that between 1990 and 2009, the number of children that died before their 5th birthday has reduced by almost one third. There have also been some successful international efforts and pharmaceutical innovations, but a lot remains to be done. The Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) has prepared “Access to Medicines, Key to MDGs on Child Health” published by Contact from the World Council of Churches, where several authors talk about the main child-killer diseases, and about what is being done and should be done to realize the MDGs on child health.



The Right to Health and to Health Care for all

The “Platform for Action, Health and Solidarity” of which AEFJN is an active member, launched the “Declaration for the Right to Health and to Health
Care for all
” at the Belgium Parliament. The statement calls on the Belgium and European decision makers to take health as a main concern in their agenda. In her introduction Senator Marleen Temmerman called the politicians to prioritize health care. Different health organizations from the North and the South presented the need for better health care. Belgian policy makers present reacted to the Declaration. The Minister of Health Lorette Onkelinx, confirmed the importance of international solidarity and sustainability for health systems. She mentioned that today health care is seen in the logic of profit, and thus given very little attention. The parliamentarian Sabine de Béthune regreteddd that Belgium gives less and less priority to health. She commited herself to bring health care to the Agenda of the Parliament. Cathy Buggenhour, head of Trade policy for Foreigh Affairs responded to the presentation on the impact of the Free Trade Agreements on health. Jacques Morel (Ecolo) reminded the importance of the Alma-Ata declaration (1978), where « health for all » was the objectif for 2000. He appealed for a change of the direction in Aid to health to a global approach.

http://www.sante-solidarite.be/node/146 (French only)


TRIPS, Intellectual property and Health:
frequently asked questions

A certain amount of confusion exists about the TRIPS Agreement’s provisions and compulsory licensing for medicines. The Information and Media Relations Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat has prepared a note to help public understanding on the links between Health and Intellectual Property rights. They present some answers to questions that are frequently asked.



Zimbabwe - Aid programme dramatically improves health service

Zimbabwe's health system has experienced a critical shortage of drugs, equipment and trained staff, as result of the economic meltdown characterized by hyperinflation, shortages of basic commodities and a brain drain. Many Zimbabweans unable to afford the drugs from a private pharmacy, they resorted to traditional and faith healers who proved ineffective. But lately the situation at health centres has improved. Essential medicines are now available in Zimbabwe's public health sector, due to a multi-donor programme, the Medicines Supply Programme (EMSP) started in 2008 that has received till now US$52 million. The money is used to buy drugs and medical supplies which are distributed to health centres by Natpharm, the supply arm of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.



Governments and the Social determinants of health

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.


World Health Organization (WHO) is convening a global conference on 19-21 October 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to build support for the implementation of action on social determinants of health. The conference will bring together Member States and stakeholders to share experiences on policies and strategies aiming to reduce health inequities.  http://www.who.int/sdhconference/en/


The great billion dollar drug scam

This article examines methods used by multinational drug corporations to control markets and lives. These companies often hide on the flipside of "charity", in a calculated attempt to sustain the status quo - a world structured on inequality, where the gap between those with access to medicine, and those without, is not only undeserved and systemically unjust - but also lethal. Developed nations pushing forward intellectual property rights, and intellectual property captains such as Bill Gates, defend the anti-competitive grip of patents. EU and USA keep on demanding an end to generic drugs so that companies can keep the profits rolling in. Even if this means increased prices -which they will result in global suffering and death on an incomprehensible scale. To paraphrase brilliant comedian Chris Rock, drug companies - or drug dealers, as he put it, don't want to cure you (or kill you). The money comes from making you live in need. 

(1st part)

(2nd part)


Le Cap-Vert exporte des médicaments vers
la Guinée-Bissau

The pharmaceutical Inpharma from Cape Verde, that already exports medicines to Sao Tome and Principe, is now considering, to spread its products from Guinea-Bissau to neighbouring countries, including Guinea Conakry. The products from Inpharma are subject to rigorous quality control, so that the medicines have a European quality. The company produces 73 pharmaceutical medicines in Cape Verde, which represent about 35 per cent of the pharmaceutical market in the archipelago. The rest of medicines come mainly from Portugal.

(only in French)



Revamping Nigeria Pharmaceutical Industry

With over 75 per cent of essential drugs being imported in Nigeria, coupled with weak state of production facilities at Nigeria’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, lack of meaningful patent legislation/pricing, reimbursement system, widespread corruption and graft has not only made regulation enforcement difficult, it has further led to serious faking and adulteration of original brands of drugs as well as prevented companies from raising their capacity to produce drugs, in line with international standards. In a move targeted at repositioning local pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in the country towards manufacturing drugs in line with international standards, the Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund (PIF) initiative will bail out the sector with an intervention fund of N200 billion (US $1.3billion). 



The impact of removing health care user fees
in Sierra Leone

The 2010 World Health Report on Health Financing for Universal Coverage leaves no doubt that user fees are a bad idea. WHO’s Director General says they constitute “by far the greatest obstacle to progress" on the path to universal access. The introduction of free care for pregnant women and children in 2010 in Sierra Leone - a post-conflict nation with a crumbling and severely under-resourced health system and one of the highest rates of maternal deaths in the world - provides very relevant lessons for the numerous other low-income countries facing similar challenges.



Keeping a measure on malaria in Africa

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has launched a scorecard to improve the fight against malaria on the African continent. Updated quarterly, provides information from each country on policies formulated, preventative measures initiated, money spent, lives saved and lost. The scorecard launched on 21 September, describes, how Angola and Burundi removed taxes and tariffs on anti-malarial commodities such as mosquito nets, medicines and insecticides. It tells how Côte d'Ivoire distributed 8.9 million nets in 2011, bringing the country closer to achieving universal net coverage. The scorecard is very important because it gives African countries the chance to compare how they are doing with peer countries.



Burkina Faso - Malaria vaccine trial raises hope

Around a hundred different malaria vaccine candidates have been developed to date but the MSP3 vaccine tested in Burkina Faso is only the second one to show a substantial level of protection against the illness. The trial was designed to test safety, but researchers found that vaccinated children had high levels of protection. A larger study involving 800 children is now to take place in Mali. There is hope that the vaccine will ultimately be very cheap to produce. The vaccine is based on the fact that some adults in Africa acquire immunity because they are constantly exposed to the disease.



Cervical cancer on the rise in developing world

In 2010, an estimated two million women around the world developed breast cancer or cancer of the cervix (the neck of the womb); more than 600,000 died - the equivalent of six large passenger planes crashing every single day.  The study is the first global analysis of trends in cervical and breast cancer incidence and mortality, using data from 187 countries. It shows that while breast cancer deaths are concentrated among older women in richer countries, 76 percent of cases of cervical cancer now occur in developing countries, where almost half those cases are in women under 50. In developing countries, breast and cervical cancer in the reproductive age groups, are important health problems.



KENYA – Non-communicable diseases and HIV
fight for limited resources

The crowd of health issues jostling for a share of Kenya's inadequate health budget is expanding, with activists calling for an increase in resources for the management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which account for more than 50 percent of hospital deaths and admissions. According to the WHO, the Kenyan government spends just 5.8 percent of its budget on health. This represents less than half of the 15 percent pledged by African leaders under the Abuja Declaration of 2001. Worryingly, government spending on health appears to be shrinking rather than growing. In 2000, health spending was 9 percent of total government expenditure and reliance on external sources for health funding rose from 8.8 percent in 2000 to 26.8 percent, according to WHO.



MADAGASCAR - Leprosy making a comeback

 A surge in new leprosy cases in the East coasts of Madagascar could come at a bad time. Once a prosperous vanilla-exporting town, Antalaha has suffered the economic consequences of two years of political instability. The consequence of the insecurity has been a drop in the vanilla market that has happened at the same time that the raise in the price of rice. People are becoming poorer and more susceptible to illness, and the public healthcare system is receiving less money from the government. Government spending for health dropped to $2 a person in 2010, compared to $5 in 2009 and $8 in 2008.


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