Access to medicines - key international standards

Below are select introductory materials on business and access to medicines.  Further reports from a wide range of sources are in the "Access to medicines" section of this site.


Key international standards

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: article 25

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: article 12

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: General Comment 14: articles 12.2 (c) and 12.2 (d)


Key reports & guidance

Human rights guidelines for pharmaceutical companies in relation to access to medicines: The sexual and reproductive health context [PDF], Rajat Khosla and Paul Hunt, University of Essex, Mar 2009. 

Investing for life - Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices, Oxfam, Nov 2007

Patents, compulsory license and access to medicines: some recent experiences [DOC], Martin Khor, Third World Network, Feb 2007

Corporate responsibilities for access to medicines [PDF], Klaus Leisinger, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, Apr 2008

Ending the R&D crisis in public health: Promoting pro-poor medical innovation, Oxfam, Nov 2008

New ILO report says HIV/AIDS epidemic costing more than 1 million new jobs per year - Says workplace should become major entry point for prevention and access to treatment, International Labour Organisation, Dec 2006 [También disponible en español] [Aussi disponible en français]

New Report: Top pharma companies fail to address industry best practices on HIV/AIDS, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Aug 2006

Public health, innovation and intellectual property rights, Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation & Public Health, World Health Organization (WHO), Apr 2006 [También disponible en español] [Aussi disponible en français]


Concerns, company responses & non-responses

The Resource Centre invites companies to respond to allegations of misconduct.  Below are examples of allegations and company responses regarding access to medicines.  We also indicate when a company has not responded.

Global: Oxfam report "Investing for Life" says drug companies not doing enough to provide access to medicines for the poor - makes recommendations for "responsible business practices", Dec 2007.  Responses from Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis.  No response received from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Roche, Wyeth.

Global: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility report says Abbott Labs faces risks over access to medicines - recommends adopting human rights-based approach, May 2007.  Response from Abbott Laboratories.

Global: Physicians for Social Justice (Nigeria) says companies’ responses to Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility report are a “cover” for their insufficient action to ensure access to essential medicines, Nov 2006. Response from Novartis. No response received from Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer.

Global: Médecins Sans Frontières says prices of essential new AIDS drugs in developing countries are too high, June 2005. Responses from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Abbott Laboratories. No response received from Gilead Sciences.

Guatemala: Bristol-Myers Squibb supports intellectual property legislation that HIV/AIDS patients & NGOs such as Oxfam warn will restrict access to HIV/AIDS medicines, Apr 2005. Response from Bristol-Myers Squibb. [También disponible en español]


Positive steps by companies

Global: GlaxoSmithKline partners with World Health Organization to fight H1N1 flu in poorest countries – will donate 50 million doses of vaccine. [Aussi disponible en français].

Global: Cipla, IPCA Labs, Calyx, Mangalam Drugs, Holleypharm, PIDI Standard sign pact with Clinton Foundation to provide low-priced malaria drugs.

Global: Gilead offers trade secrets to generic firms to help them make AIDS drug more cheaply.

Global: GlaxoSmithKline CEO pledges major new initiative to cut prices of medicines for the poor - challenges other firms to follow suit. Inc. reactions by Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, others. 

Global: Merck Sharp & Dohme programme to donate Mectizan prevents more than 40,000 cases of trypanosomiasis per year in Africa & Latin America – large-scale public-private partnership with more than 30 governments, 13 NGOs. [French only].

Latin America: 26 pharmaceutical firms, including Merck, agree with governments of 11 Latin American countries on price reductions of up to 66% for anti-HIV/AIDS drugs. 

Burkina Faso: Pfizer, Merck & Glaxo donate $450 million in medicines for neglected tropical diseases. [Aussi disponible en français].

India: Gilead enters into generic licensing deals with 10 Indian pharma firms to distribute its HIV drug Viread, says this will drive down prices - patient groups & NGOs welcome move.

Rwanda: GlaxoSmithKline agrees to generic production of AIDS drugs for Rwanda - first use of Canadian regime seeking to ease production of cheap drugs for poor countries.

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Related stories and components

Article
15 November 2007

AIDS Groups File Complaint Over Merck AIDS Drug Access in South Africa

Author: FDA News [USA]

Two AIDS activist groups filed a complaint in South Africa against Merck, claiming the company does not grant enough licenses to generic companies to sell its AIDS drug Stocrin. Merck’s actions have prevented access to cheaper, generic versions of...

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Article
10 August 2007

Drug Access: GSK Gives Consent to Canadian Drug Company To Manufacture Generic Antiretroviral for Rwanda

Author: Kaiser Network Daily HIV/AIDS Report [USA]

GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday announced that it has given consent to Toronto-based drug company Apotex to use two of its patented antiretroviral drugs...to manufacture Apo-triAvir -- a fixed-dose combination of the two drugs and the antiretroviral...

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Article
8 August 2006

Gilead Gives Up Trade Secrets to Get AIDS Drugs to Poor Nations

Author: Marni Leff Kottle , Bloomberg News [US}

Gilead Sciences Inc., maker of the world's best-selling AIDS treatment, is offering to help generic-drug makers in India produce the medicine, a move intended to get the life-saving pill to millions more people in the world's poorest countries. Since...

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Article
10 August 2005

Drug Access: Latin American Countries Reach Agreement With Drug Companies To Receive Discounted Antiretrovirals

Author: Kaiser Family Foundation Daily Reports [USA]

Officials from 11 Latin American countries on Friday reached an agreement with 26 pharmaceutical companies to secure discounts of up to 66% on antiretroviral drugs...The price agreement...allows the countries to provide HIV-positive residents with...

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Article
28 June 2005

Prices of AIDS medicines in developing countries continue to be a concern

Author: Médecins Sans Frontières

In a new edition of a pricing guide...Médecins Sans Frontières shows that while generic production has brought down the prices of most first-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) from over $10,000 in 2000 to as little as $150 per patient in June 2005, prices of...

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Article
30 March 2005

Guatemalan HIV patients slam new trade rules

Author: Frank Jack Daniel, Reuters

Dozens of Guatemalan HIV patients, many with paper bags over their heads to protect their identities, protested on Wednesday at new U.S.-backed trade rules they say rob them of access to medicines...Pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb,...

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