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UNITAID Urges India To Join Agency's Airline Tax Initiative

“Millions of the world’s poorest people could have easier access to life-saving drugs if India introduces an air ticket tax to help fund purchases of cheap medicines for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, a senior U.N. official said,” AlertNet/Reuters reports. “UNITAID, a U.N. agency which negotiates for cheap medicines from pharmaceutical manufacturers to treat deadly diseases, is lobbying countries such as India to join its air ticket levy initiative which began in 2006,” the news service writes. 

“Under the program, countries put a nominal amount on the cost of air tickets which funds UNITAID to buy drugs for patients in the developing world,” AlertNet notes. “Ten countries have imposed the levy, generating $200 million annually for cheap medicine,” the news service adds. “‘What we want in India is a similar system by which a very small contribution which is painless to the traveler can be applied to large numbers of travelers,’ UNITAID Executive Director Denis Broun told AlertNet in an interview,” the news service writes, noting, “He said it was a win-win situation for India as 80 percent of the drugs bought by UNITAID are from Indian pharmaceutical firms … some of which were for Indian patients” (Bhalla, 6/5).