Increasing People’s Access to Essential Medicines in Developing Countries: A Framework for Good Practice in the Pharmaceutical Industry. A UK Government Policy Paper, March 2005
(2005; 43 pages)


One third of the world’s population still lacks access to the medicines they need. Poverty is both a reason people lack access to medicines, and is in turn caused by lack of access. The UK Government is committed to reducing poverty. Increasing access to essential medicines for poor people in developing countries is a vital part of this.

In 2001 the Prime Minister established a high level UK Working Group on Increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the Developing World. This reported in November 2002, recommending more support for research and development for diseases disproportionately affecting developing countries, and a global framework to facilitate voluntary, widespread, sustainable and predictable, differential pricing by pharmaceutical companies. This was followed in June 2004 by Increasing access to essential medicines in the developing world: UK Government policy and plans, which detailed how the UK Government is working in partnership with developing country governments, donors, international agencies, NGOs and the private sector to increase access to medicines.

Responsibility for increasing access to essential medicines rests with the whole international community. Progress depends on everyone working in partnership to build health systems in developing countries, increase financing, make medicines more affordable, and increase the amount of new medicines developed for diseases affecting developing countries.

In this context there is a particular role for pharmaceutical companies. As the producers of existing, and developers of new, medicines they can – and do – make a difference within their sphere of influence. This is the ethical case for action. There are also strategic reasons for companies to act. There is a risk of reputational damage, undermined intellectual property regimes, and loss of market share if companies are not seen to be contributing to efforts to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries.

Most large pharmaceutical companies are already engaged in efforts to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries, including through reduced pricing offers for selected products, research and development activities, donations and through support for health systems strengthening in developing countries. Approaches vary, and many are exclusively concerned with HIV and AIDS. Some companies undertake research, and provide drugs, for specific diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. This framework builds on the good work being done by many pharmaceutical companies. Its purpose is to encourage pharmaceutical companies to redouble their efforts – to go further – and to continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders to help move poor people in developing countries from being on – or beyond – the periphery of the global pharmaceutical market, to being firmly within it. The UK Government believes that sustainable solutions must ultimately involve the development of sustainable markets for pharmaceutical products in developing countries. This will only be achieved through concerted action to build the capacity of health systems and to ensure resources are available to fund them. Making medicines more affordable is one important component in achieving sustainability. For this reason the UK Government favours approaches by pharmaceutical companies based on differential pricing rather than donations...

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