Multinational Monitor

JUN 2002
VOL 23 No. 6


An Epidemic of Neglect: Neglected Diseases and the Health Burden in Poor Countries
by Rachel Cohen

Victory and Betrayal: The Third World Takes on Rich Countries in the Struggle for Access to Medicines
by Asia Russell

Commentary: Patents Pools and the AIDS Crisis
by James Love

The Evergreen Patent System: Pharmaceutical Company Tactics to Extend Patent Protection
by Robert Weissman


Essential Drugs and Health for All: Healthy Innovations from Bangladesh
an interview with
Zafrullah Chowdhury



Behind the Lines

Stripping Away Big Pharma’s Fig Leaf

The Front
Haiti’s Not-So-Free Zones

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


The Face of Big Pharma’s Failure

Cover : Zira Gul and Haqiqa (2 and 5 years) with mother Acha Jan in the background. Haqiqa is living with Leischmaniasis. The family is from Shikhan, Afghanistan. Haqiqa’s face has been damaged by Leischmaniasis, a neglected disease. Spread by sandfleas, the disease eats deep craters into the skin. Zira Gul looks better but is actually in worse condition. She has been suffering from diarrhea and is dehydrating. The girl urgently needs medical attention, but the nearest docter is days away and she would have to travel over the mountain passes by donkey or horse. Her mother Acha Jan is incapable of looking after her children. She is ill, has a fever and headaches: “There’s nothing left to eat in the house. My husband Mohammed Nasir left four months ago to look for work. Ever since, we have been waiting for him to send us food. We can only wait. We’re neither dead nor alive.”[© Robert Knoth.]

An Epidemic of Neglect: Neglected Diseases and the Health Burden in Poor Countries

by Rachel Cohen

Cardiovascular disease and cancer, baldness and impotence -- in recent decades, innovative drug treatments have helped mitigate or cure everything from life-threatening disease to the unpleasant marks of aging. But this "health revolution," which has resulted in considerable gains in life expectancy and health improvements in some parts of the world, has left most of the world's population behind.

Drug research and development (R&D) for diseases that disproportionately affect poor people in developing countries diseases is at a virtual standstill. According to a study by Patrice Trouiller and colleagues, soon to be published in the Lancet, of the 1,393 new drugs approved between 1975 and 1999, only 16 (or just over 1 percent) were specifically developed for tropical diseases and tuberculosis, diseases that account for 11.4 percent of the global disease burden. MORE>>

Victory and Betrayal: The Third World Takes on the Rich Countries in the Struggle for Access to Medicines

by Asia Russell

With the ravages of AIDS and other illnesses wreaking untold misery in developing countries and high drug prices preventing sick people from receiving life-saving treatments, pressure has mounted to remove some of the monopoly protections in developing nations that keep drug prices so high. But the pharmaceutical companies do not easily let go of their privileges, no matter the costs.

Ninety-five percent of the world's 40 million people with HIV live in developing countries, mainly in sub-Saharan African countries. Treatable illnesses like tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS kill 17,000 people daily, despite the widespread availability of medicines that prolong lives in wealthy countries.

The World Trade Organization's (WTO's) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known as TRIPS, requires countries to adopt and enforce 20 years of patent protection for inventions, including medicines. These patent monopolies enable drug companies to maintain astronomical prices, with potentially disastrous effects for developing countries overburdened with massive rates of HIV infection and other diseases of poverty. MORE>>

Patents Pools and the AIDS Crisis

by James Love

There are a huge number of problems in dealing with AIDS crisis, particularly in the poorest countries, where the underfunded health care system cannot address even routine health care problems, let alone the difficult demands of the AIDS crisis.

Given all of the other barriers to treating the poor, it is appalling that government policies would be designed to drive up the prices of essential medicines or other important inventions, such as viral load testing technologies. Inefficient distribution systems and patents create problems that could and should be overcome.

Unfortunately, the most economically powerful countries continue to lobby against solutions. The United States, Japan, Canada, and the European Union, on behalf of member states like Germany, the UK and Sweden (countries with strong pharmaceutical export industries), continue to oppose many of the most obvious steps to lower the prices for essential health care technologies. MORE>>

Essential Drugs and Health for All: Healthy Innovations from Bangladesh

An Interview with Zaffrulah Chowdhury

Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury is regarded as the father of Bangladesh's National Drug Policy, which pioneered an affordable health strategy based in part on the local manufacture of a relatively small number of essential drugs. He is a founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, a Bangladesh people's health center that trains health workers, especially women, to provide care in rural Bangladesh, and also includes a university, a hospital and a generic drug manufacturing factory. MORE>>


Mailing List


Editor's Blog

Archived Issues

Subscribe Online

Donate Online


Send Letter to the Editor

Writers' Guidelines