Investing for life: Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices

Investing for life: Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices (pdf 942.7 kb) , Oxfam 2007.


Access to medicines is fundamental for people to achieve their right to health. While governments have the primary responsibility for ensuring access to health care for all their citizens, the role of the pharmaceutical industry in providing a vital element – medicines – carries its own responsibilities.

Current industry approaches do not address the problem sufficiently. Major shortcomings include:

* a failure to implement systematic and transparent tiered-pricing mechanisms for medicines of therapeutic value to poor people in developing countries, where prices are set according to a standard formula which reflects ability to pay and the price of generic versions where they exist;

* the lack of research and development (R&D) to address the dearth of dedicated products for diseases that predominantly affect poor people in developing countries. This includes drug formulations that are applicable and usable in the developing world. Between 1999 and 2004, there were only three new drugs for neglected diseases out of 163 new chemical entities (NCEs);

* persistent inflexibility on intellectual property protection, and in some cases, active lobbying for stricter patent rules and legal challenges to governments’ use of TRIPS public-health safeguards, thereby preventing poor people from accessing inexpensive generic versions of essential medicines; and

* too heavy a focus on donations, which by their nature are unpredictable and have been found to cause chaos in the market for low-cost medicines as well as undermining generic competition.

Oxfam believes that the potential for pharmaceutical companies to contribute more substantially and effectively towards increasing access to medicines for poor people in developing countries is not being met, and that there are three factors that have prevented companies from moving forward.

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