6 Drugs The Third World Needs But Cannot Buy
Third World countries are plagued by things most of us can't even fathom: constant fear of war, impoverishment, and of course, diseases. Because these countries are not as developed as richer ones, much of the populace simply cannot afford the disease fighting drugs that they need. The result is tragic: citizens of these impoverished nations must not only live with war and chaos, but also diseases that can be cured but wont be due to lack of money. Naturally, many people are made uncomfortable by this sad fact. In this article, we'll profile 6 of those drugs and why the Third World needs them.
Glivec is an anti-cancer
drug from Novartis, a "Big Pharma" conglomerate who produces many of
the big name drugs we are all familiar with. Costing as much as $32,000 per
year for a 400mg per day dose (Wikipedia), Glivec is much too high priced for Third World countries to afford. This has led to some
recent controversy. In India,
the courts struck down an attempt by Novartis to patent the drug and stop
companies from producing low-cost generics. However, that may not last for too
However Novartis recently appealed the court's decision in a direct challenge to India's right to interpret the TRIPS agreement to protect public health. If Novartis is successful, it could jeopardise India's generic export industry.
A similar case can be
found with the Pfizer drug Norvasc. Pfizer is currently engaged in a battle
with the Indian government, which has developed a cheap knock-off drug that it
wants to distribute to its citizens at little or no cost. While Pfizer is
trying to patent the drug and reap the benefits, India
and OXFAM are fighting for the right to produce cheap generics that Third World citizens can benefit from. Here is what an
OXFAM representative had to say about the matter:
"Rich countries must live up to their commitments and stop undermining the Doha Declaration with their selfish actions," Charveriat said. "Now more than ever we need a global trading system that puts health before profit and makes medicines affordable for all."
3) AIDS Treatments
AIDS and HIV are major
problems in places like Africa, where safe sex
is not practiced and infection rates are enormous. Tragically, these nations
who need treatments the most do not seem to be getting them. An article called
"Big Pharma Slammed Over Third World Drug Domination" describes the
situation as such:
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 74 per cent of AIDS medicines are still under monopoly, 77 per cent of Africans still have no access to AIDS treatment, and 30 per cent of the world's population still do not have regular access to essential medicines.
4) Anti-Malaria Drugs
In addition to AIDS and
HIV, Malaria is another disease that spreads like wildfire through Africa and
parts of Asia. It is carried by infected
mosquitos which reproduce and create more of themselves, in addition to
infecting humans. Unfortunately, the impoverished state of people in those
areas make it so that developing those drugs would not be profitable.
MalariaSite.com describes the situation well - and frighteningly:
"There is little pharmaceutical industry interest in developing new antimalarial drugs; the risks are great, but the returns on investment are low....If drug resistance in P. falciparum continues to increase at the current rate, malaria may become untreatable in parts of Southeast Asia by the beginning of the next millennium."
5) Oral Rehydration Therapy
Diarrhea is another
problem easily dealt with in developed nations but deadly in parts of the Third World. Interestingly, it turns out that there is a
rather cheap way of treating it.
In many cases there is a simple solution for acute watery diarrhea: a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride and glucose, stirred into drinking water. Called oral rehydration therapy (ORT), it can treat 90 to 95 percent of diarrhea cases effectively and cheaply.
Unfortunately, the cheap production costs are the problem: there simply isn't enough money involved for Big Pharma companies to mass produce it. MultiNationalMonitor.org had this to say:
Since a packet of oral rehydration salts costs only pennies to produce, it has a limited profit margin, while the other leading treatments - antibiotics and other antim icrobial drugs - albeit less effective, are a much more profitable venture. For multinational pharmaceutical companies the decision of which type of treatment to market is easy. For the developing world it is a disaster.
Breast cancer is a
collosal problem among women in the Third World,
and a highly expensive drug called Avastin is effective at treating it. After a
lengthy FDA review process and significant controversy about whether the drug
was safe or not, it is now available for doctors to reccomend. The only problem
is the astronomical cost patients must pay to use the drug. An article titled
"The High Price of a Cancer Drug" makes it clear why Third World nations probably will not benefit from this
Genentech charges about $92,000 a year for breast cancer patients. For women with annual family incomes below about $100,000, it caps the charges at $55,000 a year.
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