Ensuring Medicines for Tomorrow’s World
THE WAY AHEAD Worldwide the pharmaceutical sector is currently marked by a series of tensions, which are separate but interlinked and which periodically explode into the public consciousness when acute crises arise. Some of those tensions relate directly to the role of the pharmaceutical industry; others result from the development of public policies that have placed too great a weight on maintaining the status quo rather than working creatively to build a healthy future. This clearly underlies the inherent tension between exclusivity rules in the pharmaceutical market, as promoted in the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, and the need to provide wider access to medicines. The first major conflict in that connection erupted in South Africa in 2001 and involved a direct but unsuccessful challenge by a group of major pharmaceutical companies to the public health policies of the government.1 Other direct conflicts have occurred in Asia, and the foundations for further conflict are still being laid in the negotiation of ‘Free Trade Agreements’ that, in fact, restrict the ability of developing countries to interpret the TRIPS Agreement in the interest of their own populations. Linked to these problems is widespread discontent with the high level of drug prices, which can render products inaccessible to the poor but can also raise problems in affluent societies. A third source of tension is the increasing realization that useful pharmaceutical innovation has become a rare commodity. Continuing conflict sometimes seems to be an inevitable manifestation of a global system for the development and supply of...
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