Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Will the real elephant please stand up?

"Attack on patents hurts the poor" is the title of a Business Daily article co-authored by Alec van Gelder (Network Director of the International Policy Network, London) and Franklin Cudjoe (director of Imani, an independent policy think-tank in Ghana). They argue that the "patients not patents" campaigners make a simplistic appeal which will only make things worse for the poor, as well as distracting attention from the real causes of ill health: poverty and corruption. The authors write, after citing an outspoken attack on patents by Kenya Minister of Health Ahmed Ogwell at a World Health Organisation meeting:
"... For poor Africans, intellectual property is not the issue and Kenya’s Ministry of Health should know better. Less than two per cent of the WHO’s list of essential medicines is protected by patents. In 2005, the head of the WHO’s Aids division, Kevin de Cock, said: “It is obvious... that the elephant in the room is not the current price of drugs. The real obstacle is the fragility of the health systems. You have health infrastructure that is dilapidated, a health workforce that is demoralised, labs that don’t work, supply chains that don’t exist and diagnostics that are missing.”

Without these things, you can give drugs away for free and they still won’t get to the most needy. But this doesn’t appear to matter to activist organisations like Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam ...".


Njuguna said...

Ahmed Ogwell is not the Minister of health, rather he works in the Ministry of Health.

Jeremy said...

Thanks for putting me right!