Drug prices for world’s needy grow: MSF

GENEVA, Nov 14, 2006 (AFP) – Drug prices have increased in the past five years despite a commitment by the World Trade Organisation’s 149 members to make them more accessible to the world’s poor, the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Tuesday. MSF said in a statement that newer HIV medicines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 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 available under part of the WTO deal agreed at Doha, Qatar in 2001, known as the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), MSF said.

TRIPS rules grant poor nations affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis a temporary exemption from international laws protecting intellectual property rights.

It enables them to buy cheaper generic drugs from pharmaceutical companies in countries such as Brazil and India.

MSF said further reform to intellectual property rights was needed to ensure generic producers coul