'Combine Incentives for Research with Access to Medication for the Poor'

Article excerpt

Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with six of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies on 5 April in Amsterdam, the Netherlands to agree on what further steps need to be taken to improve access of developing countries to better health care, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HIV-related medicines, as part of further action to combat acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), including prevention, education and research.

The Secretary-General met with the Chief Executive Officers and senior executives of Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman-La Roche and Pfizer. He was joined at the meeting by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).The pharmaceutical companies have made significant progress individually in providing an expanded number of drugs to combat AIDS, including antiretrovirals and treatments for opportunistic infections. Prices have come down substantially as a result of the companies' individual actions. Mr. Annan urged them to continue and accelerate these initiatives. Special emphasis was placed on the least developed countries, particularly those in Africa, as well as the need for continued country-by-country negotiations in other developing countries. All recognized that qualified non-governmental organizations and appropriate private companies offering health care to employees and local communities should also be considered for increased accessibility to HIV/AIDS medicines.

"Encouraging the active participation of all partners in the fight against AIDS has become my personal priority", said Mr. Annan. "We must harness the expertise of all sectors of society. The pharmaceutical industry is playing a crucial role. We need to combine incentives for research with access to medication for the poor. Intellectual property protection is key to bringing forward new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics urgently needed for the health of the world's poorest people.

"The United Nations fully supports the TRIPS agreement, including the safeguards incorporated within it. However; the solution does not lie with the pharmaceutical companies alone. I am calling for a major mobilization--of political will and significant additional funding--to enable a dramatic leap forward in prevention, education, care and treatment. …

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