UN policy on non-communicable illness must be tougher on companies that make unhealthy food, licensing of life-saving drugs, say health advocates

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Article
21 September 2011

Battle of commercial interests confound fight against noncommunicable diseases

Author: David Brown, Washington Post

Behind...talks at the United Nations and a...document about the need to fight noncommunicable diseases...is a fierce struggle between commercial and health interests...Some of the issues...are the same ones at the heart of...the battle against smoking and the effort to bring AIDS drugs to poor countries. But the stakes here are much bigger...because noncommunicable diseases...are the globe’s biggest health problem...with incidence growing steeply in...low-income, rapidly urbanizing nations...The food industry...for the moment is considered a “partner”...It is a position that has left many activists unsatisfied...Laurent Huber,...who works for an anti-smoking group, said, “The fast-food industry and the junk-food industry...are part of the problem..." ...The bigger issue...was how much to invoke the international trade agreements that...have helped bring...drugs to...people with HIV infection in low-income countries...Many experts and activists interpret [the document]...as evidence that rich countries don’t want their drug companies to be pressured into repricing cancer and heart medicines for the developing world as they were for antiretrovirals. [refers to steps taken by Red Lobster and Olive Garden (both part of Darden Restaurants)]

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Article
16 September 2011

[PDF] Political declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases [draft resolution]

Author: UN General Assembly

We..., assembled at the United Nations...to address...non-communicable diseases...Recognize that the most prominent non-communicable diseases are linked to...tobacco...alcohol, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity;...Acknowledge the contribution...[of] all relevant stakeholders, including...the private sector and industry...;...Advance the implementation of...interventions...by...Promot[ing] the development and initiat[ing] the implementation...of cost-effective interventions to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats, and eliminate industrially produced trans-fats in foods, including through discouraging the production and marketing of foods that contribute to unhealthy diet...[and] Promote access to comprehensive and cost-effective prevention, treatment and care...including...increased access to...medicines..., including through the full use of trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) flexibilities...

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