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Big Pharma's problem is not 'image', says Oxfam

International aid charity Oxfam says the pharmaceutical industry is damaging its own business prospects in emerging markets by not doing more to get vital drugs to millions of people in poorer countries

International aid charity Oxfam has said that the pharmaceutical industry is damaging its own business prospects in emerging markets by not doing more to get vital drugs to millions of people in poorer countries.

In a report, Oxfam accused the industry of seeing access as an exercise in improving its reputation and not as an opportunity to commit to structural reform. As result, added the charity, companies continued to miss out on the long-term business potential offered by the developing world.

Oxfam did concede that Big Pharma was making ëhalting progress' by instituting free drug access programmes and heavily discounting prices in some poor countries, but criticised the industry for keeping the supply limited and restricted to high-profile diseases, such as HIV and AIDS.

The report concluded that the pharmaceutical industry should implement systematic and transparent tiered pricing, be more flexible in their application of patent protection and commit to more research into diseases affecting poorer countries, such as tuberculosis and malaria.

Oxfam's head of research, Sumi Dhanarajan, said: "The industry is operating in a short-sighted way because it could gain enormous benefits from emerging markets, including lower research and development costs and cheaper manufacturing. Yet instead it continues to blindly use its same strategies in poor countries. Even today, the richest 15 per cent of the world consumes over 90 per cent of its pharmaceuticals."

The industry defended its record of aid, citing initiatives designed to get healthcare to millions who cannot afford developed world prices.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Association (IFPMA) said that between 2000 and 2006, the industry made more than 1.3 billion health interventions in the form of donations of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics worth a total of USD 6.7bn.

30th September 2008

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