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Access To Medicines

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Minister of State for International Development what steps have been taken to implement the paper on access to medicine produced by the Government, the United Kingdom pharmaceutical industry and multilateral agencies; and if she will place a copy in the Library. [113614]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises four key factors that can improve access to medicines for diseases prevalent in poor countries (including AIDS, TB and Malaria): affordable pricing, sustainable financing, reliable health and supply systems, and the rational selection and use of existing drugs.The UK Working Group on Increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the Developing World, chaired by the former Secretary of State, reported to the Prime Minister in November 2002. A copy of the report is available in the Library. The Working Group consisted of senior representatives from UK Government, pharmaceutical industry, the UN, EC and other international organisations.The UK Working Group was asked to specifically consider:

ways of improving access to medicines through measures such as facilitating differential pricing arrangements and encouraging appropriate donations; and
what policies could be pursued by the UK Government that would increase research and development into diseases of poor people.

The Group recommended specific action on R&D, and outlined proposals that would encourage voluntary, widespread, sustainable and predictable differential pricing as the operational norm. In the short-term, it recommended gaining significant international commitment to this approach, including through the G8. A team has been established within DFID specifically to take this forward.

The UK Government are firmly committed to increasing access to medicines and to strengthening health systems in developing countries. DFID has committed over £1.5 billion since 1997 to support health systems, which will help build capacity to deliver medicines to the poor and to make effective choices about the selection of drugs.

On sustainable financing, we have pledged $200 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM). This will help pay for increased coverage of proven interventions for the three diseases and some associated health systems strengthening. We have already disbursed $80 million to the Fund.

The UK is also working through the World Trade Organisation to ensure that a satisfactory conclusion is reached on the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health agreement that will assist developing countries with insufficient or no drug manufacturing capacity to make effective use of compulsory licensing.

Tax measures were introduced in the 2002 Budget aimed at encouraging private sector companies to increase investment into the research and development of new treatments for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in developing countries, and encouraging responsible donations of medical supplies and equipment to developing countries. Departments across Whitehall will be working together to monitor the impact of these tax initiatives and to explore the potential of other mechanisms to increase investment.