‘Drug prices for world’s needy grow’

Geneva, November 14:

Drug prices have increased in the past five years despite a commitment by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 149 members to make them more accessible to the world’s poor, the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said today.

MSF said in a statement that newer HIV medicines recommended by the World Health Organisation can cost up to 50 times more than the cheapest first-line treatments, even when they are available in poor countries. The group called for a boost to the production and availability of generic drugs — which are cheaper because they are no longer covered by patent protection — to treat major diseases.

Countries should make more use of the options ava-ilable under part of the WTO deal agreed at Doha known as the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rig-hts. It rules grant poor natio-ns affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis a temporary exemption from international laws protecting IPR. It enables them to buy cheaper generic drugs from pharmaceutical companies in countries such as Brazil and India.