§ Clare Short
The high cost of drugs is a key barrier to poor people's ability to access essential medicines. The pharmaceutical industry, in partnership with the international community and donor governments, provide some medicines at preferential prices to the developing world. The Government have been working with partners to make a major advance towards the widespread and sustainable access to medicines to the world's poor, including through pharmaceutical companies providing medicines for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria at close to the cost of manufacture. However there is a risk that such medicines can be diverted and sold by 'middle men' back to developed country markets where they can be sold at a higher price. The extent of this problem can vary. Last year one company reported that roughly 25 per cent. of its preferentially priced AIDS medicines were diverted back to the EU.
Our High Level Working Group on increasing Access to Essential Medicines examined ways of minimising the problem. In the long-term, strengthening developing country health systems will better equip countries to minimise product leakage. DFID has committed over 1.5 billion since 1997 to health systems strengthening in poorer countries. Other strategies to minimise diversion include, developing distinctive packaging and labelling of preferentially priced medicines, and implementing customs regulations in wealthier markets which prohibit re- importation. The European Union is currently discussing a regulation which would include such measures.