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Developing Countries’ Medical Needs Unfulfilled by Big Pharma

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The world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies have “failed to produce two-thirds of the most urgently needed treatments in developing countries,” the Guardian reported in November 2018. The Guardian’s coverage was based on a report by the Access to Medication Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes access to essential medicines such as infant vaccines for cholera and single-dose oral treatments for syphilis. An estimated two billion people globally lack access to urgently needed medicines.

The Access to Medication Foundation’s 2018 report monitored the availability of medications produced by twenty of the largest pharmaceutical companies to lower- and middle-income countries. 91 of 139 drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests identified as urgently needed by the World Health Organization have not been developed by any of the pharmaceutical firms tracked by the report.

The Access to Medication Foundation’s executive director, Jayasree K. Iyer, told the Guardian: “There have been massive improvements in global health in the past decades, with all major pharmaceutical companies taking action. To close the gaps that remain, a greater diversity of companies must get involved and stay engaged for the long haul.”

The report highlighted the need for pharmaceutical companies to provide better access to existing cancer treatments, reflecting the rising impact of cancer in low and middle-income countries. Noting that “progress in global health is not inevitable,” the report found that in some countries mortality rates were stagnating or worsening. In 2017, for example, non-communicable diseases accounted for 73.4 percent of deaths, an increase of 22.7 percent since 2007.

The foundation’s report also highlighted 45 best and innovative practices that could “help raise the level of standard practice” and “achieve greater access to medicine.”

Source: Julia Kollewe, “Big Pharma ‘failing to develop urgent drugs for poorest countries,’” The Guardian, November, 20, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/20/big-pharma-who-failing-to-develop-urgent-drugs-for-poorest-countries.

Student Researcher: Brandon Grayson (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)

Daniel Christof

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