Developing Nations’ Health Ministers Approve Declaration Backing Efforts to Obtain ‘Cheap’ AIDS Drugs
Health ministers from developing nations this week met and called for improved access to "cheaper, high quality" drugs to treat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- diseases that South African officials blamed for "half of the deaths in developing countries" (Swarms, New York Times, 3/27). During the two-day summit, which began Monday, health officials from 33 nations in the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 113 developing nations, discussed a number of health issues -- including the "ravaging" effects of AIDS and improved access to HIV drugs -- hoping to "find a united stand" (Loof, Associated Press, 3/26). The group passed a declaration Tuesday, stating that developing nations "had a right to resort to special measures" -- such as parallel importation and compulsory licensing of AIDS drugs -- to help in the "struggle" against the disease. "Countries should not be hindered in their efforts to exercise the options available to them under international agreements ... to access lifesaving and essential medicines," the NAM declaration said. Although pharmaceutical companies have opposed the measures, saying that they "compromise patent rights," the group said that drug firms must consider the "plight of patients" and "pursue not just profits but 'social welfare.'" The health ministers also "declared their support" for the South African government in the "landmark" lawsuit brought by 39 "big" drug companies over a South African law designed to "access cheap medicine." According to Indian Health Minister Chandreswar Prarad Thakur, "The delegates all decided to back South Africa without disagreement" (Agence France-Presse, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.