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Harmful Side Effects: How drug companies undermine global health

September 12, 2018

New Oxfam research shows that four pharmaceutical companies -- Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer -- systematically hide their profits in overseas tax havens. They appear to deprive developing countries of more than $100m (around £80m) every year -- money that is urgently needed to meet the health needs of people in these countries -- while charging very high prices for their products. In the UK, these four companies may be underpaying around £125m of tax each year. These corporations also deploy massive lobbying operations to influence trade, tax and health policies in their favour and give their damaging behavior greater apparent legitimacy. Tax dodging, high prices and political influencing by pharmaceutical companies exacerbate the yawning gap between rich and poor, between men and women, and between advanced economies and developing ones.

Report of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on human rights and medicines: Oxfam's response

September 14, 2016

In December 2015, the UN Secretary-General set up a High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines to 'recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies'. Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima is one of the 16 HLP members.As the HLP issues its report, Oxfam commends the UN Development Programme secretariat, whose staff worked tirelessly to support the Panel's work. Oxfam calls on the UN Secretary-General and all governments to start implementing the HLP's recommendations without delay, and ensure that gaps not fully addressed by the HLP should be discussed further. 

Never Again: Building resilient health systems and learning from the Ebola crisis

April 14, 2015

It took the threat of a global health crisis to illustrate the failings of Africa's health systems. Resilient health systems, free at the point of use, are evidently a global public good. They are essential for the provision of universal health coverage and for a prompt response to outbreaks of disease.Resilient health systems require long-term investment in the six key elements that are required for a resilient system: an adequate number of trained health workers; available medicines; robust health information systems, including surveillance; appropriate infrastructure; sufficient public financing and a strong public sector to deliver equitable, quality services. Global investment in research and development for medical products is also critical.This briefing paper identifies lessons from the current Ebola crisis, as well as previous outbreaks, to review what is required to build resilient health systems in West Africa and beyond. The paper presents recommendations for affected countries, governments, donors and international organizations.

Salt, Sugar, and Malaria Pills: How the Affordable Medicine Facility-malaria endangers public health

October 19, 2012

The Affordable Medicine Facility-malaria has shown no evidence that it has saved the lives of the most vulnerable or delayed drug resistance. Rather, this global subsidy has incentivised medicine sales without diagnosis and shown no evidence that it has served poor people. It poses a risk to public health and could skew investment away from effective solutions. Evidence shows that a public-public partnership between community health workers and primary health care facilities can fight malaria and deliver on other public health outcomes. But will donors listen to the evidence?

False Hope or New Start? The global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria

November 3, 2010

14,000 people become HIV positive every day. The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria was set up to tackle the health crisis caused by these three diseases in developing countries. But it requires massive and long-term donor funding, a transparent and equitable system of service delivery, and commitment to comprehensive programmes of prevention, treatment, and care (which include the use of generic medicines) if better health is to become a reality for the millions of women, men, and children already infected and affected by these illnesses.

Free Trade Agreement Between the USA and Thailand Threatens Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment

November 3, 2010

Access to HIV/AIDS medicines makes a huge difference to the lives of infected people and their families. Not only do these medicines help people live longer, they also greatly improve the quality of their lives, reduce the stigma and discrimination that they might experience, and enable them to contribute to the economic and social welfare of their families, their communities, and their countries as a whole. Thailand is a positive example of a developing country that has developed effective HIV/AIDS treatment programmes, with beneficial results for its population. It has a health-care system that can deliver antiretroviral therapy and other treatments to those in need. And thanks to the availability of affordable generic medicines the government is able to offer some key HIV/AIDS medicines to around 30,000 people, with plans to scale up the programme in coming years.

Generic Competition, Price and Access to Medicines: The case of antiretrovirals in Uganda

November 3, 2010

Access to treatment is a key part of national strategies to combat HIV/AIDS. Antiretrovirals can increase the length and quality of life, and the productivity of patients. Research in Uganda shows that poor people will use ARVs if the price is right and if a delivery system is place. It also shows that the price of brand-name drugs fell significantly only when generics entered the market. Generic competition, the use of the public-health safeguards in the TRIPS Agreement, and urgent funding for health-service delivery are essential parts of the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries such as Uganda.

The Cost of Childbirth: How women are paying the price for broken promises on aid

November 3, 2010

One women dies every minute as a result of problems in pregnancy or childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths are avoidable. Yet on current trends the international target of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015 will be missed. Northern governments could transform the prospects of reaching the target by increasing the aid that they give to the poorest countries. It would cost $4bn extra aid a year to save half a million lives a year. Yet they have failed to act. The G8 countries should signal a shift in priorities by setting a timetable for meeting the UN target of devoting 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Product to aid for human development.

Ending the R&D Crisis in Public Health: Promoting pro-poor medical innovation

November 3, 2010

Diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world cause immense suffering and ill health. Medical innovation has the potential to deliver new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics to overcome these diseases, yet few treatments have emerged. Current efforts to resolve the crisis are inadequate: financing for research and development (R&D) is insufficient, uncoordinated, and mostly tied to the system of intellectual property rights. Delivering appropriate medicines and vaccines requires reforms to the existing R&D system and a willingness to invest in promising new approaches.

Patents Versus Patients: Five years after the Doha Declaration

November 3, 2010

Five years ago, members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) signed a ministerial agreement to ensure that intellectual property rules would no longer obstruct developing countries' efforts to protect public health. Since then, however, little has changed. Patented medicines continue to be priced out of reach for the world's poorest people. Trade rules remain a major barrier to accessing affordable versions of patented medicines (generic medicines). The prevalence of debilitating and life-threatening diseases in poor countries is growing, but medicines are simply not available. Urgent action is needed.