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Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to make anti-malaria drugs available (a) cheaply and (b) in sufficient quantities to African countries seriously affected by the disease. [112535]

The World Health Organization recognises for diseases prevalent in poor countries—including AIDS, TB and Malaria—four key factors that can improve access to medicines: affordable pricing, sustainable financing, reliable health and supply systems, and the rational selection of drugs.

Availability of affordable medicines was one of a number of issues my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) looked into when she chaired a recent High Level Working Group on increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the developing world. DFID is firmly committed to increasing access to medicines for the poorest, in line with the WHO strategy. For example, we have committed over £1.5 billion since 1997 to support the strengthening of health systems, which will build capacity to deliver medicines to the poor and to make effective choices about the selection of drugs.

DFID is currently working with a number of key stakeholders, including the Pharmaceutical industry, for an integrated approach to increasing access to medicines for the poor, including tackling affordability. This will focus on the major diseases of the poor including Malaria.

The UK has committed over $200 million over five years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria for the procurement of drugs and commodities and some associated strengthening of health systems. We have already disbursed $80 million to the fund.

The UK is strongly committed to tackling Malaria, recognising its importance not just in terms of burden of disease, but also in terms of the impact Malaria has on economic development, particularly in Africa where this has been an increasing problem. The UK Government are committed to the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goal to halt, and begin to reverse the incidence of Malaria by 2015. At the 1998 G8 summit in Birmingham the UK Government pledged £60 million to support action on Malaria, and financial commitments since then have far exceeded this figure. To date the UK has provided in excess of £110 million to support Malaria control globally and at country-level. This includes a contribution to basic Malaria support through the Medical Research Council (MRC) and support to the Malaria Consortium resource centre. We are supporting the development of new drugs appropriate for developing countries through partnerships such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and programmes that help find new low-cost Malaria treatments, for example Lapdap.