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Fair Trade Agreement Between E.U., India Could Impede Access To Medicine For World’s Poor

“Current negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and India are causing serious concern in many quarters over future access to cheap generic medicines used to treat some of the world’s great public health threats: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and also cancer,” Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. special adviser on innovative financing for development and chair of UNITAID, and Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, write in this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Those fears are well founded: if the E.U. and India agree on stringent patent and border measures, India’s role as the ‘pharmacy of the south’ could well come to an end,” they add.

They continue, “The result could see patients in poor countries facing stock-outs, price increases and even having to pay the full cost of their treatment — meaning that only the richest among them will get treated. And we have to remember that a young African diagnosed with HIV today will have to stay on treatment for the next 50 years, not only to keep alive but to avoid transmitting the virus.” They conclude, “The medicines-related issues discussed in the FTA are not only a question of public health, but of ethics, justice and reason. The result will either be a win-win situation that will also benefit the poor or a lose-lose proposition that may kill the poor” (2/10).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.