Monday, 19 October 2009

Medicines for Rwanda -- but what about the 'drug miles'?

Shire Canada Inc., a division of Shire plc, announced today its voluntary cooperation to enable further royalty-free access to HIV/AIDS medicines for Rwanda as part of that company's ongoing collaborative efforts to improve health and save lives in the developing world.

Shire is a supporter of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) -- under which Canadian generic companies can manufacture in Canada a fixed dose triple combination antiretroviral medicine that contains 3TC(R), a patented drug over which Shire Canada owns the local patent rights. According to Shire Canada VC Claude Perron,
"Shire is totally supportive of this initiative, and will work collaboratively with government and non-governmental agencies worldwide to help secure medicines for those that request it. Our industry wide efforts are aimed not only at preventing and treating HIV/AIDS but also tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases that affect sub Saharan Africa."
The CAMR is a positive consequence of the August 2003 World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement which lets WTO member countries with pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity issue licences for the manufacture and export of generic versions of patented drugs and medical devices to developing countries that do not have the capacity to manufacture the products themselves.

What Afro Leo would like to know is what steps are taken to transfer to Rwanda, and other HIV/AIDS-rife jurisdictions, the necessary technology and know-how to enable them to manufacture vital patented medicines locally rather than have them sent half way round the world, virtually from the Arctic to the equator. Once the principle of licensing the manufacture of generics is accepted, there must surely be a more efficient way of doing it. In developed countries, foods flown in from developing African economies are often tainted with the environmentally hostile stigma of 'food miles'. Surely the same can be said of the 'drug miles' clocked up by pharma products travelling in the opposite direction.

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