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News Article : Letter in response to “Punishi
Category: Views & Letters : Letters to the Editor
Author:Ellen ‘t Hoen
Email:[email protected]
Posted:05 May 2008

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Patents are irrelevant in stim

Alec van Gelder and Franklin C

Today the world relies on patents to stimulate and finance the development of new medicines.

The pharmaceutical industry assures that such a system is essential, and warns of dire consequences for the health of the poor should the system be tampered with.

New medicines, it says, will simply not to be developed.

A WHO expert commission dismissed this claim. It concluded that patents are irrelevant in stimulating the development of drugs for diseases which have insufficient commercial potential, because patients are too poor.

For many of these diseases, such as tuberculosis, the pipelines for new drugs remain desperately empty.

Worse, Doctors Without Borders sees all too often how the system causes medicines - when they exist at all - to be priced out of reach of those in need.

Kenya took heed of these stark truths - and worked to set up the forthcoming talks at the WHO, for which it should be commended.

These talks aim to find ways of financing the development of new medicines that respond to health needs of the poor, and in ways that ensure that they remain affordable to patients.

Through its medical projects throughout the world, Doctors Without Borders is acutely aware of the weakness of health systems.

Yet whether health systems are weak or strong, medical innovation remains worthless if it fails to respond to patients’ needs, or if new medicines are so expensive that patients must go without.

Ellen ‘t Hoen
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines

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